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Digitized by VjOOQII
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ONE AFTER ANOTHER
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
MKW yOtX. . BOSTON • CHICAOO • DALLAS
ATLANTA • SAN FBANOSCO
MACMILLAN & CO., LmmD
LONDON • BOIiaAY • CAWOTXA
i py^ MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, L
Author of "Olga BaWel," **Ju
"The Querrils," etc.
cy THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
THE NEW YORK
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Sec up and electrotyped. Pnblithed Joly, 19MW
THE Nr-'v/ Yoriz p\':'' !c ! ;r;:ARY
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I " The Duchess of Pmss '' 1
II A Cbowded Life 14
ni The Limited Monaboht 27
ly Lauba's Affaib 38
V Backgbounds 52
VI Odd Socks 65
VII Chance 80
Vni The Becher Studio W
IX The Dissecting-Room 108
X The Cuban Assassin 122
XI Anna 137
Xn Success Has Its Pbicb 163
XIII That Which Is Always Changing in Mb . . 167
XIV The Search for Pr(m»ortion 180
XV Not a Nice Thing to Have Happened . . . 192
XVI A FmsT-WiCKET Man 208
XVEI Adequate Encouragement 223
XVTII The Rabbit 237
XIX The Instrument Awakened 250
XX The Science of Suffering 262
CITY 0^ \^'V VI,, ^«
ONE AFTER ANOTHER
TBX BT70HS88 OF PLBSB
WHAT I used to like about my father's garden
in Camden Town was the spiders. Espe-
cially in the autumn when they got big and
greedy. I used to like to creep out there in the morn-
ing before school, when no one was about. Their webs,
sparkling with tiny drops of dew, stretched cunningly
between the yellowing leaves, always gave me a thrill.
The tool-house door was a good spot to catch flies, and
I became quite clever at it I used to throw them into
the spider's web. The spectacle which followed always
sickened me — I felt my heart beating — but it was
tremendously moving and exciting. The spider is
surely the most efficient thing alive ... so masterful,
80 well equipped. He is always worth watching, if
only for his craftsmanship. The sensitive control over
the skein of web effected, then the pounce, and those
appalling long circular legs that must seem to attack
the victim all round. He appears to do what fighting
there is to be done right away from any vital portions
of his own anatomy. But it's all over in a second.
The victim is rolled round and round and round, bound
2 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
up and trussed, given one good bite, and left. It
used to annoy me sometimes that he left it so soon, and
went back to stage centre. You could see the thing
struggling in its mesh. Sometimes they caught bees
and wasps. This would appear to be a fairer fight,
but the spider always won. The most satisfactory
thing to throw into a spider's web is a daddy-long-legs.
They always stick. They have such clumsy legs and
long wings, and you feel that they must make such
a fine meal for the spider. If you throw a fly too hard
it goes right through. ...
One day Laura found me doing this. She had been
watohing me from the bathroom window. She called
me '* a disgusting little beast.'* She rushed at me and
scratched my face, and pushed me over some flower-
pots. She was thirteen then, three years older than
I, but I was a man. I suppose women will never un-
derstand men. I was in a blind fury as I squared
up to her. Ingrained in me was an instinct that it is
man's business to understand about killing things.
Women are fools. Laura and I were always fighting,
but we never fought with such venom as we did that
morning. Neither spoke. Occasionally we groaned or
screamed with pain as some chance blow or scratch or
kick got home. Quarter was neither given nor asked.
Laura was fighting for some vague and silly sentiment,
and I was fighting for the prerogative of sportsman-
ship, for manhood, and, incidentally, for the spider
. Laura was taller than I, and quite unscrupulous in
her methods of fighting. I made her nose bleed, but
otherwise I was undoubtedly getting the worst of it.
She had scratched my face, bitten my thumb, torn my
hair, and kicked me on the shins and knees. It was
with something of relief then that I heard stepmother's
voice call out:
THE DUCHESS OF PLESS «
'' Children ! Children ! What are you doing ? "
Then, of course, the natural superiority of die male
asserted itseK. For I simply left off and scowled,
while Laura hurst out crying.
" The little h-beast," she blubbered, " he's puttin' flies
in the s-spider's web."
"T'ck! t'ck! You naughty boy, Tom," said step-
mother mildly. " Well, you mustn't fight and make all
this to-do, anyway. Come inside and wash yourselves ;
you'll be late for school"
When I look back upon the memory of my stepmother;
I am bound to acknowledge that, as stepmothers go, she
was undeniably a success. Laura and I both rather
liked her, but we did not, of course, appreciate at that
time with what delicacy of feeling and adroit manage-
ment she filled her vicarious position. She must have
appeared to our father somewhat in the light of a
placid harbour after a gorgeous storm. Laura and I
had only dim recollections of our mother. I remember
her scolding me, and then in the night she would come
and wet my face with her tears and kisses. Laura re-
membered more. She remembered going to the exhi-
bition with mother, and the way that people stared at
them both. " I'm not surprised. They looked so drab
beside her," Laura explained. Also she remembered
some of the songs mother used to sing, and on Sunday
evenings curious people came in and ate and drank, and
mother sang and played the mandolin. Some of the
men who came were Spanish too, as mother was.
Father tolerated them for mother's sake, but Laura
could see he didn't like them. Father was frightfully
English. He used at one time to travel about the world
buying and selling horses. He met mother at a place
called Bio. Father must have done a lot of thin^ in
his time before he settled down to the splendid position
he occupied when I was ten.
ONE AFTEK ANOTHEB
My father had a genius for enjoying life. It is a
quality only possessed by simple people. And he was
remarkably simple. Every little commonplace action
throughout the day appeared to give him a quiet satis-
faction . . . doing things properly. He enjoyed wash-
ing^ brushing his hair, cleaning his teeth, polishing his
brown boots — an operation which occupied him twenty
minutes every morning and was conducted through the
media of most elaborate accessories, like a high-church
service; he enjoyed folding an umbrella, blowing his
nose, opening a newspaper. Lighting a pipe was a com-
plete ecstasy. And yet he was frugal and restrained,
scrupulous in his dealings and direct in his actions.
The simplicity of his outlook was emphasised by almost
childish beliefs. He appeared to float in a mental
archipelago studded with the little islands of prejudice
and superstition. He would do nothing of importance
on a Friday, or on the thirteenth of tibe month. He
would never pass anyone on the stairs. If he spilt
salt, he immediately threw some over his left shoulder.
I am glad that I never remember him breaking a mir-
ror. He would have been distracted. His justification
for this attitude was that " you never knew." He en-
joyed a kind of wistful reverence for the established
thing. He believed in God in the definitely anthro-
pomorphic sense, as a Being who, though He would not
probably have selected the licensing trade, would have
conducted it decently. And in his humble way he tried
to conduct it decently himself.
He was very regular in his habits and methodical.
He rose at seven in the morning; went into the garden
and took deep breaths, and indulged in a few cumbrous
exercises. Then he lighted his pipe and polished his
THE DUCHESS OF PLESS 5
brown boots. He breakfasted at eight, read the news-
paper, and went for twenty minutes' walk. On his
return he devoted the rest of the morning to attending
to the business of the House. Book-keeping in the office
' of the yard, interviewing spirit salesmen, checking the
great barrels of ale delivered by enormous draymen.
He had dinner at one o'clock punctually. After dinner
he indulged in an hour's nap on the horsehair chair in
the parlour upstairs. He usually spread a lace anti-
macassar over his head to keep the flies from biting himu
At half-past three he went out for a walk. Sometimes
he called at places on business, but he was always at
home at five o'clock for tea. This was our great time —
Laura's and mine; we always had tea together, father
and stepmother and Laura and I. Tea, of course, is
the nicest meal in the day. There is something exciting
about the very sound of a tea-cup touching a saucer.
It excites me still. And then there are the round
plates with piles of bread-and-butter, and brown cakes
with black sultanas peeping out, and always one pot of
jam, and sometimes crumpets.
Ajid father was always at his best at tea-time. It was
as though he had reserved this hour for us. He would
call up to the play-room on the third floor, where Laura
and I were, and in his enormous voice boom forth :
" Children, what was it the King of North Carolina
said to the King of South Carolina ? "
And Latira and I, who had been coached for the part,
would chant in unison :
"We — want — our — TEAl"
And stepmother would smile and say : " Oh, you
And then we raced downstairs to the parlour, and
father would e^^press unlimited surprise that there was
the tea all ready for us. The drawing-room and the
parlour were large rooms and were connected by folding-
6 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
doors painted in two shades of green. The wood-work
in the parlour was painted brown, and the drawing-
lOom white and yellow. Both rooms were richly fur-
nished with every kind of furniture in gold, walnut,
and mahogany. It was indeed very difficult to move
about for the furniture. Over the fireplace in the
parlour was an enormous steel engraving representing
" The Death of Wolfe/' On either side were cylindri-
cal glass bowls covering a cluster of wax fruit most
tantalisingly reaL Apart from all this, of course, we
had a dining-room. But that was downstairs, leading
off the kitchen. We used to have dinner and breakfast
there, but the parlour was our favourite room, conse-
crated to tea only.
When we sat down, father would look very solemn,
except for his eyes, which couldn't be, and he would
talk and ask us impossible riddles. He had rather a
bald head, with large, prominent grey eyes, and a deep
chest. When he threw back his head and laughed,
everything had to laugh with him, including people
and furniture and even the wax fruit itself. He had
a habit of buying us little presents, and hiding them,
and making us look for them. He would suc^denly
"Goodness gracious me! What's that awful thing
growing out of the wall behind the piano ? "
And Laura and I would rush for it. And there in-
deed would be a huge brown-paper parcel. Feverishly
we would break the string. Inside would be a box.
Inside more brown paper. Then another box and more
paper, and so on till we got down to — possibly an old
mouse-trap. Then father would slap his leg and laugh,
and Laura and I would pretend to be angry. But we
should not be really angry, because we £iew by expe-
rience that father never let us down like that. Some-
where in a more inaccessible place would be another
THE DUCHESS OF PLESS 7
parcel containing — a railway-station, or a splendid
At six o'clock father's busy time would commence, for
the bars would begin to fill, and he would be down
there till very late at night, when they closed. I
believe he used to do a certain amount of serving, but
most of the time he talked to customers and attended to
things generally. He employed all sorts of people.
There was Mrs. Beddoes, the bar manageress, a very
stout lady with a white-powdered face, and a kind of
pyramid of fair gold hair kept together (or perhaps
kept on) with bands of black velvet. There were two
barmaids, Olive and May, both tall, both fair; Olive
of the willowy, clinging kind, and May more rigid and
assertive. I fell in love with May when I was eleven,
and I used to go and peep at her through the skylight
above the private bar. I had to get a pair of steps to
do this and lean it against a clothes-stand in a dark
passage. It was an adventure fraught with peril, for
neither Laura nor I, not even stepmother, were allowed
to go into the bars under any circumstances, and father
was very strict about it Then there was a potman
named Jingle. He was the object of my idolatry for
many years. He had been a prize-fighter. He had a
flat, shapeless face and little twinkly eyes. He would
often play with Laura and me in the garden and tell
us thrilling stories of his victories in the ring. He
must have been the greatest fighter who ever lived. In
any case, he never told us of any occasion when he had
been defeated. And he was so good-tempered and gen-
tle. Of course we were imder no delusion as to the
principal reason of his employment; neither was he.
There was very, very seldom any trouble in " The
Duchess of Pless"; father was far too strict. He
established a kind of code which had to be observed.
No one was served who gave the slightest sign of having
8 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
had too much, and, indeed, those who gave no sign were
limited in the amount they were allowed to consume
in one evening. He boasted that he only supplied the
best, and that in limited quantities. He would not
allow bad language, and though he was fond of horse-
racing and often went to the races, he would not allow
betting or book-making on the premises. I believe
" The Duchess of Pless " used to be known in the neigh-
bourhood at one time as " Old Purbeck's Paradise."
I know a lot of the men used to laugh at him and call
him a crank ; nevertheless, he sustained a reputation for
honesty and incorruptibility, and was held in great
respect in the neighbourhood. I have heard him say
on more than one occasion: "I am a fully-licensed
man, sir. It is something to be proud of. It entails
responsibilities as well as privileges. I have been a
fully-licensed man for seventeen years. It's a trade,
like any other trade, serving a public purpose, and liable
to abuse. I hope I have always conducted it decently.*'
If any untoward incident did occur to jar this credit-
able programme, any unseemly attempt to abuse the
privileges of his house, my father would bring his fist
down on the mahogany bar and in his enormous voice
*^ Silence, gentlemen ! "
If this were not sufficient, he would bring his fist
^own again, and call:
When our potman appeared, grinning and amiable
as ever, father, his eyes blazing with anger, would point
to some individual and say:
And Jingle, leering pleasantly, with his long arms
swinging below his knees, would sidle up and say:
" Come on, my lad ! "
They very seldom showed fight They hardly seemed
THE DUCHESS OF PLESS 9
to have time to. Jingle was like the spider, so won-
derfully equipped. He did not appear to hurt them.
He seemed to twist them round and tie them up, and
then gently shoot them into the st;*eet. On two occa-
sions I had the great privilege of observing this opera-
tion from my vantage-point in the dark passage. Eor
it occurred at the time when I was spending restless
nights on account of May.
In addition to Jingle, our establishnfftut consisted of
a cellarman named Waynes, a quite insignificant indi-
vidual ; a large and flabby-faced cook called Grace, who
whenever I entered the kitchen was always either eating
or shedding tears on a letter she had either just received
or just written. She was a good cook, with a limited
repertoire. I remember that for years she used to make
us what she called a "Zulu pudding." It is curious
that, as we had it nearly every day, I cannot remember
what the pudding was like. The title must have been
more impressive than the pudding itself. I remember
her discussing the meals for the day with stepmother,
and with a rolling-pin pressed into her left cheek, say-
ing in her tearful voice : " Well, what do you say to
a nice Zulu pudding ? "
It was, of course, inevitable that in the end Laura
and I always referred to her as " the Zulu pudding."
Various housemaids came and went, stole things, quar-
relled with Mrs. Beddoes, irritated father to distraction
— he hated fresh people and innovations — tried to
make love to my adored Jingle, with varying degrees
of success, and eventually vanished into the Ewigkeit
I hope in any case that I have impressed you with the
fact that we were people of considerable importance and
prominence in Camden Town at that time; that our
10 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
establishment was no ordinary establishment; that
Laura and I were reared in an exceptional atmosphere
of luxury and refinement and wealtL We realised
our position more fully when we first began to attend
the Grammar School. Some of the other children
were dressed almost as well as we, if not so expen-
sively ; but we soon learned from little things that were
said that their home-life conditions were quite different.
Very few of them had cake and jam for tea, very few
of them had a parlour as well as a drawing-room, and
a dining-room and a play-room. The majority of them
only had one "general," and even the Beldams, whose
father was a solicitor, had to acknowledge that they
only had a cook and a housemaid. They didn't keep
any barmaids or prize-fighters at all. None of the
others were taken to a hox at the pantomime at Christ-
mas ; none of the others were given such costly presents.
Laura was the only girl who had private lessons on the
piano from a gentleman who wore a tail-coat and spats,
and who came to our house at half-past six on two
evenings in the week.
Laura in those days was something of " a cure " —
as stepmother described her. There was certainly noth-
ing about her to denote the kind of woman she was to
develop into later on. She was very dark, queer, elfin-
esque, with a broad, rather plain face and eyes remark-
ably wide apart. She was tall for her age, with skinny
legs and very quick movements. In fact, quickness
was her principal characteristic. She was almost in-
coherently quick in speech, quick to grasp situations,
and very quick-tempered. She would be sweet, com-
panionable, and delightful one minute, and then some-
thing would happen, and her eyes would blaze and her
nostrils quiver. She would cry, or fume, or sulk, till
suddenly another wind would blow it all away.
There was no love lost between Laura and the rather
THE DUCHESS OF PLESS 11
rigid, well-groomed young man who came to give her
music-lessons. He expressed the opinion to father that
Laura had great talent, but he never seemed to en-
courage it He smiled superciliously when she played,
and when she had finished he purred. Laura always
swore that he purred. He told her when she played
wrong notes, and sometimes he played the piece to her
himself. And Laura informed me:
" When he plays, all I can think of is pomade."
I mooted a scheme by which we should lure him out
into the yard one evening and then get Jingle to man-
handle him. " Squeeze some of the oil out of him."
Laura's eyes brightened at the suggestion. But we
could never get Jingle to fall in with our plan, and
when I taunted him with being afraid of the music-
teacher, and offered him my pocket-money for three
weeks ahead, he only laughed.
The feud between Laura and myself over the ques-
tion of the spiders lasted some days. It was not till
the second day that we could even discuss the matter
coherently. Then, when Laura was in bed, and I had
come in to fetch a clean collar for the morning (for
some reason or other my collars and handkerchiefs were
always kept in her room), she suddenly said:
" Why did you do it ? "
" Putting the flies in the spider's web."
" P'saugh ! It's nothing ! It's quite natural. The
spider would get them anyway."
" It isn't natural. It's only natural when he catches
*' But this one hadn't got a fly."
" Well, it was no business of yours."
12 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
I then had a brilliant inspiration.
" What do you think's the worst ? '' I said. " To
starve to death slowly, or to be killed quickly ? "
" It's just as cruel to starve the spider as to kill the
fly. A fly's no good anyway."
" You -don't know anything about it**
" Not only that : Mr. Tilden, our mathematical
master, told us that a spider isn't really cruel. When
he catches a fly he gives it a bite which 'sphyxiates it
for forty-eight hours. So that by the time it comes-to,
" Rubbish ! How can it come-to, if it's dead ? "
" It depends upon whether the spider has eaten it or
not. Of course, if he's eaten it, all its worries are
Laura sat up in bed. I could see her dark eyes peer^
ing at me across the room.
" Suppose," she said breathlessly, " he's only partly
eaten it ! "
" Then," I answered, " it doesn't come-to ; it only
Having uttered this brilliant and cynical witticism,
I thought it advisable to dash from the room.
Three mornings later, when I went into the garden,
I found Laura bending over a small bush. She was
so absorbed she did not hear me approach.
"What's up?" I asked.
" He's turning it over and over and biting it," she
said huskily. " He's killing it, and — I threw it in ! "
"Well, that's all right."
She turned away, and her face was quite colourless.
Her hands were clenched.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"I feel sick."
" Well, go and be sick."
THE DUCHESS OF PLESS 18
Then Laura rushed at me again and hit uiy ear.
Yon would hardly believe it, but the next morning
I found Laura there again. She had caught and put
in a daddy-long-legs and two flies.
So, you see, when I was only ten years old, I knew all
▲ CBOWDSD IJ7ID
LIFE in my father's house was rich and crowded.
Every hour there was movement, anticipation,
Ji colour. I had my niches and shrines, and
the ambit of my existence was fringed with breathless
romance. Laura and I, although we fought and quar^
relied, were intensely intimate. Laura had the faculty
of exciting me. When she entered the room I waa
conscious of warm and brilliant colour, although she
might be wearing a black frock and her face might be
pale. I loved to watch her, and stepmother, and my
father, and all the busy people coming and going.
They had so much to give me. Their experiences
peeped at me across rose-coloured spaces. The garden,
the spiders, the tool-shed. Jingle, the great brewers' drays
in the yard, stepmother carrying up a pile of clean
linen, Laura practising scales, a corner of the play-
room with the pale sun making patterns on the floor,
dinner and the great dish-covers, father rather flustered
and in a hurry . . . someone coming in to ask a ques-
tion, Grace singing in the kitchen, school again . . .
bewildering but rather adventurous, something new
always happening. Home to tea, Laura with a washed
face, positively shining. Stepmother a little agitated,
sonxe people coming in to supper — the Mowlams.
Pa, ma, and Evie — very old friends; perhaps Uncle
A terrible man, Unde Stephen. I dreaded him and
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
A CROWDED LITE 15
worshipped him. He was father's brother, but not a
scrap like father. He was tall, wiry, hard. He had
almost white hair and a dark moustache, possibly dyed ;
a clean-cut, bony face, and he wore circular-rimmed
glasses, which gave him a fierce, concentrated expres-
sion. He did dumb-bells, and punched a ball, and shot
pigeons. He lived at Netting Hill and kept a large
stationer's shop. But all his instincts were towards
sport and keeping fit.
He had a curious-shaped piece of land at the back
of his house, which he had completely netted in so
that he could have a cricket-practice pitch. It was a
narrow strip, broken half-way by the projection of a
railway funnel. There was no grass on it. It was
just mud. Every week or so he made me go out
and play cricket with him. I dreaded it, but I was
too frightened to refuse. I could never make up my
mind which terrified me most, his bowling or his
batting. He bowled frightfully fast. He took a long
run, but owing to the projection of the funnel you
couldn't see him when he started, but you heard him.
Suddenly he appeared round the bend, rushing at you
at a fearful rate, his eyes blazing, and as he delivered
this ball he emitted a kind of growl like a savage dog.
The ball always seemed to come straight at my head
or legs. And if I drew back an inch he bawled out:
" Stand up to 'em, boy ! Stand up to 'em ! "
When he batted it was no better. He used to drive
the ball straight back at me with terrific force, and it
seemed impossible to escape in that netted-in cage.
I used to try and bowl wides so that he couldn't get
at them, but he nearly always did, and if they didn't
come straight back and hit me on the chest, they flew
all round the netting, struck a wall somewhere, and
eventually caught me on the back of the head. While
I was rubbing myself he would exclaim:
16 OlSTE AFTER ANOTHER
'' Pitch 'em up, boy ! Pitch 'em up I "
I used to return home covered with cuts and bruises.
I felt lucky to escape with my life.
Of course Laura soon discovered my post of observa-
tion in the passage, where we could look into the
private bar, but she never found it so absorbing as
I did. She got impatient. The fair halo above the
head of May gave her no satisfaction. The glittering
mahogany and glass, the cunning arrangement of taps
and levers and sinks stirred no response in her bosom.
The conversation of the brilliant personalities who came
to worship at the shrine of good-fellowship left her
cold. But these things stirred me profoundly. In
the first place, I realised that the social system was
divided into three definite classes — the lower, the mid-
dle, and the upper. It must be so, for as on the
railway there is a first, second, and third class, so in
my father's house there was a public, a private, and
a saloon bar. By going back into a passage you could
get into either, but once established there you were
completely cut off from the other two. You could
sometimes observe or be observed by them, but thanks
to the ingenious scheme of little glass shutters you
CQuld always shut off anyone's view of you. Presum-
ably the manners and customs of the human species
are regulated in the same way. The bishop and the
bargee, the wife of the bishop and the wife of the
bargee, all have their little glass shutters, although,
like the other animals, they come to the same stream
to drink at sundown. I observed, moreover, that the
bars were places of spiritual mystery. Curious little
movements and cross-currents, a kind of masonry, were
A CEOWDED LIFE 17
always in evidence. Men came in in groups, and whis-
pered together. There was a deliberate telepathic con-
nection with certain units and the gods and goddesses
on the other side of the bar. A corpulent, red-faced
individual would pant his way in and hand a brown-
paper parcel across to Olive, remarking wheezily:
Olive would take the parcel without the slightest
evidence of understanding, and reply :
"AH right, Charlie.''
He would then toddle out, but at the door he would
perhaps meet another very similar person. Without
any word of greeting they would return to the bar,
and the second man would say:
" A bass and a mild-and-bitter, Olive.''
They would drink their refreshment as though it
were positively distasteful, fiddling about with their
moustaches to keep them out of the beer. Then the
first man would tap the other on the upper expanse of
his stomach, and whisper. The second would twirl
his dripping moustache, and look utterly lugubrious.
At last he would reply in a thick voice :
" Nothing is like it used to be."
This would seem to satisfy the other man, and he
would hand him an envelope and they would go out.
I observed that this freemasonry pervaded the day, but
late in the evening it spread out into open discussion
and broad generalities. Men talked eloquently and
forcibly about politics, trade, and fighting. As the hour
grew late their voices appeared to merge into a long,
continuous drone, the art of listening • vanished, the
lower, middle, and upper classes vanished ; it was just
one voice, like the voice of a drowning man a long
way off, comfortably indifferent to his fate.
Perhaps I was sleepy on these occasions. I ought to
have been in bed, but the rich variety of this life fas-
18 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
cinited me, and there was always a chance of father
" Now, gentlemen ; order, please ! *' Or even more
It was always satisfying to observe the homage paid
to father. The gentlemen invariably called him *^ Mr.
Purbeck, sir," and they always listened to him as he
leaned across the bar and emphasised some point by
beating the air with his fat first finger.
Mrs. Beddoes was called Mrs. Beddoes, although I
once heard a young man refer to her as Mrs. Bed-fellows.
Olive and May were called a variety of nicknames,
too bewildering to remember. May was my adored
ones pert, self-contained, and, alas! inaccessible to me
and too accessible to everyone else. The men all adored
her, and she was just as pleasant to the lower and
middle classes as she was to the upper.
This is where Olive differed perceptibly. Her bright,
queer, expressionless eyes always seemed to float above
the heads of the customers and to be fixed upon the
entrance door of the saloon bar. There was something
tragic, provocative, expectant about her. She served
the upper classes watchfully, the middle classes disdain-
fully, and the lower classes with unconcealed disgust.
The evenings which the Mowlams spent with us were
always rather starched and unsatisfactory. They were
special friends of stepmother, and Laura and I could
never see what she could find in thenu Mr. Mowlam
had some sort of position in a piano-factory in Kentish
Town. He was a peculiarly disappointing man. He
had a really beautiful head, with snow-white hair. A
fine, classical head, with sharp features and clear grey
A CBOWDED LIFE 1»
eyes, and yet I really think he was one o( the most
stupid men I have ever met. I could never account
for him at all. He had all the presence of an evan-
gelist, a reformer, a seer. And yet the only thing he
was really interested in was pedigree rabbits. He
kept a lot of these ridiculous animals in hutches made
out of packing-cases in a yard in Kentish Town, and
he used to loan them out for breeding purposes. At
supper time he would regale us with tedious and un-
necessary details about the profits derived from the
amours of the all-too-fertile does, or the dubious history
of some black buck called Dodo. On any other subject
he leered knowingly and clicked his tongue, suggesting
that he knew all about it, but he wasn't going to say.
Mrs. Mowlam was a big woman, very broad and
heavily-built. She had a kind, motherly face, and
would have been quite pleasant if she had not been so
pliable with regard to persuasion to song. She had no
great opinion of her voice, and indeed she had no cause
to have. It was always Mr. Mowlaift who said :
"N"ow, Annie, give us a song."
And stepmother always kindly added:
" Yes, Annie, do.''
Annie did not really want to sing, and no one* in
the room really wanted to hear her. Looking back
on it, one realises that the whole thing could easily
have been avoided, which simply goes to emphasise the
extraordinary stupidity of Mr. Mowlam. She had a
tiny little high, plaintive voice, and always sang little
ballads with words of this description:
"Fm a merry little fly,
Stranger quite to care aad sorrow.
As my liie is short, I try
Every hour fresh bliss to borrow."
Even father revolted at the physical inappropriate-
ness of this song, and remarked one morning at oreak-
20 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
fast that the singer was more like "a merry little
hippopotamus" — a remark which caused Laura and
me to be late for school, but which nevertheless bright-
ened the day considerably. It cannot be said that
Evie Mowlam was a friend of ours, either. She was
in the early thirties, and she patronised us. The
upper part of her face was almost as beautiful as her
father's, clear, transparent, and sensitively modelled.
Her nose was well shaped and rather large, and then
her chin seemed to race away from the whole prop-
osition and leave a row of splendid teeth dangling
in the air. As Laura said, "She never seems to
be not grinning." She was overpoweringly affection-
ate, vehement about trifles, discursive, and uncon-
Laura and I were perhaps a little prejudiced about
Mrs. Mowlam's singing, because it was apt to clash with
our own performances. For you must know that we
were both at the reciting age, and we required even less
persuasion than our lady visitpr. I specialised in
Shakespeare, and squeezed in fiefween the furniture,
which was always impeding my gestures, I used to
recite the quarrel scene between Brutus and Cassius,
Mark Antony's oration over the body of Casar, and
Hamlet's monologue on death. Laura considered
Shakespeare hackneyed, but she also espoused the tragic
muse. She let herself on on Eugene Aram, Curfew
Shall Not Ring To-night, and a piece which she con-
sidered her masterpie<}e, which began, " I am not mad 1
I am not mad ! " W^ once attempted Hubert and Ar-
thur together, but found it quite impossible, because a
point would come when, catching each other's eye,
one of us would laugh. It seemed quite easy to be
Hamlet or Csesar all on one's own, but to stand there
by the folding-doors and have Laura in a plaid skirt,
with the familiar pigtail tied in a red bow, suddenly
A CKOWDED LIFE 21
turn to me and say : " Good morrow, little Prince ! "
was too much for anyone.
It is doubtful whether the Mowlams derived any en-
joyment from our performances, any more than we
did from Mrs, Mowlam's singing, but they were decently
polite. It was father who was the stupid one in this
case. He would say:
"Now, Laura, what's it to be? This way for the
early doors! Annie, come and sit here in the stalls
with me. Move up, Fred. Now then, who's going to
And he would commence clapping just like people do
in a theatre. And Laura and I would flush with ex-
citement, and push each other about. And there is no
doubt that father enjoyed us enormously. I watched
his face whilst Laura was performing. He was really
feeling it all. His eyes were glued upon her, his lips
mutely responding to the action of hers. When we had
.finished he would turn to the others and say:
" By Jove ! Did you ever hear anything like it ? "
It is very interesting, this un-analytical admiration
that the majority of parents have for the performances
of their children. It must be some sort of by-product
of the instinct of self-preservation. I am quite con-
vinced that neither Laura nor I had any but the most
ordinary talent for reciting, and yet father — who was
not in other ways an uncritical man — seemed to be
completely mesmerised by our performances. He was
amazed, entranced, and went about telling everyone of
the riot of genius he had helped to bring into the world.
And naturally we both believed it.
It was father who eventually discovered me peeping
through the skylight into the bars. He said :
22 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
" What are you doing there, Tom ? "
I looked foolish, and replied :
" Oh, just having a look through."
Eor a moment he flushed angrily; then he came up
and took the steps away. He said nothing, but I saw
him standing there with a curious, perplexed expression
on his face, as though some entirely novel aspect of
life had been presented to him. For some time after
that I avoided the passage ; a rich corner of my life was
cut out On the stairs I could hear the drone of the
voices, but I dare not resume my observations. And
then there occurred a most unfortunate event. I had
gone to bed. It was Saturday night; no school to-
morrow. I was very excited, and I could not sleep.
After a time I realised that father would be safely down-
stairs, serving. Saturday was always a busy night. I
crept downstairs and fetched the steps from a lavatory
where I knew father had put them. Very gingerly I
opened them out and mounted them. The bars were
crowded. One could hear the snap, snap, snap of the
brass cranks where May was drawing off glasses of beer.
Everyone was serving as rapidly as possible, the aii*%as
blue with tobacco-smoke. Above the din of conversation
could be heard the constant jingle of coins and people
tapping on the counter and calling out for drinks. It
was all very exciting. Just below my window was a
kind of terrace of bottles. Occasionally one of the
servers made a dash towards it and I had to be careful
to duck out of sight. I do not know how long I lurked
there, watching and listening to this engaging drama,
where all the actors seemed entrusted with important
parts, but the most important part — the actor-manager
— was obviously my father. It was he whose individ-
uality seemed to fill the stage, and I felt very proud
. . . "Purbeck's Paradise."
Someone in the saloon bar — among the aristocracy
A CEOWDED LIFE 28
— was raising his voice in a thick rumble. Quite
clearly above lie general confusion I heard a long string
of unprintable oaths. Immediately there came a crash
upon the counter which cut the whole flow of talk in
two. There was a dead silence, and then the thunder
of my father's voice :
"Now then, there! That will do. Hi! you, clear
out of the bar ! "
The drama was id movement. The actors were snap-
ping up their cues. The old emotions were let loose.
The chorus was resumed, but more indistinctly. The
ijnportant action of the piece was yet to be developed.
Alas ! from my position I could not see the villain, the
rumbler, the outcast of the decencies. But I could hear
a kind of dim, subdued counter-rumble, and the hissed
exhortations of his supporters, and I could see the hero
glowering across the bar, gloriously commanding. And
in the background, grinning as usual, and wiping his
hands upon a towel, the alert and sinuous Jingle. It
was the briefest of comedies. The waves of sound re-
sumed thojr normal roar. The partisans of disrup-
tion apparently chose the wiser course, and hustled their
champion from the lists. The hero enjoyed a momen-
tary intoxication of having " gripped them " on an
opening night to a full house. Then, swinging on his
heel, he turned to the terrace to collect a bottle. It was
not where he expected. His face was still flushed with
anger. He glanced up suddenly and loohed right into,
I darted back, but I knew I had been too late, I
scrambled down the steps and tried to carry them away.
A sudden fear of my father came over me. I was in
a frenzy to escape. I had a momentary prevision that
he would strike me, and he had never struck me . . .
never, never. And if he did, I should be so ashamed.
But he was angry. I had never seen him so angry.
24 ONE AFTEB ANOTHER
I felt the strong, firm grip of his hand on the upper
part of my arm. The steps were taken from me. I
wanted to cry, and I could not speak. At the end of
the passage was a dim hall, illuminated by one gas-
burner. I remember noticing a dingy print of Queen
Victoria in a lace cap, a relentless presentation of the
proprieties. My father was carrying the steps away.
His voice seemed strained and distant.
" I told you not to do that, Tom."
I shivered against the wall, not knowing how to act.
Suddenly he put the steps down, and came over to me
and gripped my shoulder.
" I don't want you to do that, boy."
That was all he said. It was not an order, and cer-
tainly not a menace. It was husky, tearful, almost
despairing. I whispered breathlessly: ^'AU right,"
and went upstairs. As I turned the corner I saw his
profile, the steps held in front of him. He looked tired,
pathetic, curiously alone. I wanted to go back and ask
his pardon, but I could not bring myself to do it.
When I got into bed I lay awake staring at the dark-
ness, and after a time I cried a little, because my father
was lonely. He was alone, and I was alone. Every-
body. ... I could go in and see Laura, but she would
not understand. She, too, is alone. How lonely every-
one is! All separately walking along in the darkness
. . . alone, alone, alone^
Someone is tapping on my door. Father? No, of
course that is Laura. She always taps like that. She
comes in ghost-like — but abrupt. That is like Laura
— an abrupt ghost. Some new excitement. What does
A CEOWDED LIFE 36
She sits on my bed and dangles her legs.
" Tom ! '^ mysteriously and portentously. " Pve just
got an awful idea ! "
"What is it?"
" Eve is like a white rabbit"
" No. Think of her. The way she looks and eats.
It stands to reason. If a man is always thinking about
white rabbits, he has a daughter like one. They're
teaching us that now at school. It's frightfully inter-
esting. I've forgotten what they call it"
"Oh, go to bed!"
Laura slaps me and goes out. What a fool she is!
An abrupt, foolish gjiost wandering through the night
Glorious daylight dispels all these visions. Every-
thing is just the same. The smell of coffee and bacon;
father vigorously polishing his brown boots in the yard,
cheerful and friendly. The Sunday newspapers folded
neatly on the white cloth. Ming — our tabby —
curled up on the window-sill, her paws curved inwards
and her narrow slits of eyes expressing furtive ecstasy.
Strange that the important news should come to me
three weeks later from the mouth of my Uncle Stephen.
At the end of one of our dreaded games of cricket, he
" Well, my lad, so you're going to boarding-school ! "
I was not going to be such a fool as to profess ignor-
ance. He massaged his nostrils vigorously and added :
"You'll have to stand up to them there. You de-
velop that off-drive and you'll be all right."
Just as I was leaving, he stopped me and said :
" When you first go to school, Tom, the boys will all
ask you what your father is. You take my advice and
26 ONE AFTEK ANOTHER
say he's an hotel proprietor. Don't tell them he's a
Anyone who has been to a public school will appre-
ciate the almost incalculable value of Uncle Stephen's
THE LIMITED MONABGHT
THE four and a half years which I spent at
Leydhurst College was an experience which
appears now to be completely divorced from
all association with the rest of my life. While it lasted
it seemed a self-contained eternity. When it was over,
it dwindled to a brief, incisive episode, a curious little
boxed-in paraphrase of life. Whereas in my father's
house all was movement and rich colour, at Leydhurst
everything was static and of only one colour, a cold,
bright, sunny yellow. Everything appeared determined
beforehand, fixed and finished. One had to get into it,
adapt oneself ; it never came out to help one. There was
nothing you could do for which there was not a formula,
a code, a standard, or a cure. Cut off from the rest
of the world by fields and hedges, it aped the manner-
isms of a limited monarchy without a foreign policy.
It had a domestic policy — of an unrelenting, reaction-
ary kind — and it had its courts of justice, its police,
its pomp, its self-satisfied egregiousness o^ citizenship,
its state religion, and its unbreakable tradition of man-
ners. Almost at once, too, I discovered that it had its
three bars. This fact surprised me, for I had been
informed so often that " all that sort of nonsense gets
knocked out of a boy in a public school." I found just
the contrary to be the case. "All that sort of non-
sense'' is openly encouraged by the boys themselves,
by the masters, and by the Procrustean laws. A boy is
28 ONE ATTEE ANOTHER
commonly written down "a cad," not for the reason
of any moral, physical, or intellectual lapse, but because
some slip in the conventions betrays the fact that he has
strayed into the saloon bar, whereas his proper place
is the public bar. It may be through wearing the
wrong-shaped collar, or brushing his hair in an unusual
manner, or failing to catch the exact intonation of the
popular accent, or some intangible abuse of fashion ; but
whatever it is, the law is inexorable. Moreover,
whereas in my father's house the laws of the bars were
liberal in their construction, and elastic in their inter-
pretation, at Leydhurst they were enforced with acid
cruelty. God never invented anything crueller or more
primitive than the average public-school boy. He has
not the merciful 'sphyxiating bite of the spider, but he
has all the luxurious cruelties of a cat. He enjoys
torturing his victim. He finds out all the raw edges
of its sensibility and he nags away at them.
He is taught to believe that his school stands for
something — something connected vaguely with the
glory of England, the singing of " Onward, Christian
Soldiers," and the almost sublime ambition to come out
top of the cricket averages. For the rest, everything
is futile and effeminate, consequently to be tortured and
ragged out of existence.
His preceptors are always dinning into his ears
phrases about honour, loyalty, independence, and truth.
He considers honour an affair of sticking up for the
people in his own bar ; he feels loyalty to be safe with
the vision of his father going to the city in a top-hat
and paying his rates and taxes; he mistakes egoism
for independence, and he has no use at all for truth.
Ambition is satisfied by being like everybody else, only
At Leydhurst most of the boys were what I might call
*^ private bar " boys, but there were quite a good few
THE LIMITED MONAKCHY 29
saloons^ and a generous sprinkling of the ^unspeakable
"publics," always referred to as cads. There was
only one possible loophole for the cad to escape into
the more select bars, and that was by virtue of his
musctes. A real "blood" was tolerated anywhere,
partly through the fear which he inspired and partly
through the awe and respect which a public performer
always commands^ be he an actor or a football-blue.
I do not propose to enlarge upon the impressions of
my school-life, but I must pay a handsome tribute to
the sagacity of Uncle Stephen in giving me the advice
he did on the eve of my departure.
I was one of about fifteen new boys, and during the
first week we were all subjected to an interminable
cross-examination. Every old boy, bigger than one-
self, came up to one and said, " What's your name ? "
and then, " What's your father ? " and usually a string
of other questions. If the boy was smaller than you,
you naturally told him to go to hell, but if he was bigger,
you either had to answer or get your head clumped, or
involve yourself in unknown terrors in the days to come.
The questions were designed primarily to discover which
bar yoii aspired to. I must say at^once that my reply
of " an hotel proprietor " was entirely satisfactory. I
realised later on how valuable this answer was, for
another new boy came whose father was a publican,
and he said so. The gibes and general contumely which
this brought upon his head overwhelmed him for the
rest of his school-days. He was flung mercilessly into
the most sawdusty comer of the public bar, labelled
"that little cad Tompkins," and subjected to continu-
ous ironic questionings about the price of gin.
Somehow the term "an hotel proprietor" bore an
30 ONE APTEE ANOTHER
entirely different complexion. My father might only
be a shareholder in one of those big hotels on the Em-
bankment^ or he might own one of the sunny-terraced
places on the south coast. Anyway, a proprietor only
proprieted. He didn't even necessarily work. He
must attend board meetings in a top-hat. He might
I fpund myself quite easily in the saloon bar, the
more especially as I was fitted out with the best of
clothing, and father kept me liberally supplied with
Nevertheless, the whole of my first term was a tor-
ture. I was utterly wretched and homesick. I yearned
for Laura and stepmother. How ghastly is all this
isolating of the sexes. The army, the navy, and the
schools . . • they all have that bleak unreality of Leyd-
hurst. Men and women, boys and girls, they should
always be accessible to each other. Women are no bet-
ter or worse than men, but they shroud them with their
unfathomable mysteries. The design included them,
and when they are left out the pattern of everything
becomes distorted. A community of isolated men pur-
sues the chimera of qualities which it terms — manli-
ness, a quality which has nothing to recommend it at
all. And so it forms false standards, puffs out its
chest, bullies, conspires, hates, and makes wars, and
panders to its stultified licentiousness.
The limited monarch who ruled over this establish-
ment was an individual as far removed from my con-
ception of a satisfactory social being as anything I had
ever seen. He was intensely affable and patronising.
A thin, elderly man, with a refined narrow face, al-
ways smiling and anxious. He had taken various de-
grees at Cambridge, including that of Doctor of Divin-
ity. His smile was a sickly, defensive posture without
any sympathetic appeal. It appeared to be the nervous
THE LIMITED MONARCHY 81
outcome of his anxiety to impress the school trustees
that he was observing the orthodox conditions of his
appointment; towards the masters an expression of
the kindly good-humour in which he took his position in
this third-rate school vhen his talents obviously were
worthy of a nobler institution ; towards the boys the ex-
pression of a super-saloon-bar lounger who is rather
ashamed of being seen there^ and suddenly catches the
eye of the small boy who takes home his landlady's
washing. The interminable services in the chapel nearly
drove me distracted. Everything was droned, intoned,
and conducted on the line of least resistance. The
fat mathematical master talking sleepily about the an-
ger of God . . . someone's turn to read the Lessons
— old James, the "Stinks" master, snuffily spouting
• . . as though he were quoting from a seed catalogue.
No one convinced about anything, everyone doing it
because the barbarian festival is an interesting heritage
that every well-conducted limited monarchy ought to
retain. " Am I mad ? Or are they all mad ? " would
sometimes flash through my mind. Then Mr. Speen
up in the organ-loft would pull out a stop, and the
school would really let itself go.
" Onward, Christian sol-hol-ol-jer-ers,
Marching as to er-war-er,
With the cross of Jee-zus
Going on before-er.*'
This appalling tune can only appeal to the worst pas-
sions of the mob. It is perverted romanticism. I
could see its effect on the faces of the boys. I knew its
effect upon myself. We loved it while it lasted. It
intoxicated me with thoughts of Laura, the gay lights
in my father's saloon . . . the world before me, with
its doors to all the mysteries unopened. Savage im-
pnlsea stirred in me, an indolent condensation of the
83 ONE AFTEK ANOTHEE
senses. I felt gloriously self-centred^ important^ supe-
rior. But how slowly it all movedl Would the term
never end? If only I weren't a new boy!
The Easter vacation was the briefest, but oh, how
glorious and free 1 How I envied Laura, now a student
at the Eoyal Academy of Music in Tenterden Street.
How full and thrilling her life appeared! Growing
up . . . her long legs filling out, her leather music-
case, her pigtail caught up and tied with a red bow
on the nape of her neck, her checks fuller and fatter,
her eyes more animated than ever ; frightfully busy and
consumed with the important development of her career.
Yes, career ! . . . career, that was Laura's new magnet.
Wonderful stories about professors and fellow-students,
and playing at "the Fortnightlies " ... the import-
ance of it all, overpowering. And her freedom of move-
ment, her dazzling freedom of choosing ribbons and
selecting stockings, no walls of Jericho to fall on her if
she blew the wrong blast on the trumpet. And people,
always fresh and interesting people, passing through her
life, touching her, surprising her and passing on. And
my father, childishly glad to have me home, pretending
not to be proud to have a public-school boy for a son.
And in the afternoon I walk with him (an innovation
this), and the streets are full of hansom-cabs, and bi-
cycles, and gloriously beautiful women, and I am again
in touch with the eternal verities. Every woman I meet
appears to contain the embryo of an entirely new set of
human experiences. I, too, am growing up. Leyd-
hurst is forgotten. Suddenly the deep voice of my
" Are you happy at school, Tom ? "
He does not look at me, and we march stolidly along.
THE LIMITED MONARCHY 83
" Eather," I reply, and I realise that this is one of
the first effects of my immersion into the Ledyhurst prin-
ciple of " manliness." There must be something in a
system which inspires one to lie so cheerfully. Then
there comes a curious, eerie, uncomfortable suspicion
creeping up my spine. It concerns my father. I'm not
sure that he would fit into the Leydhurst scheme of
things. If he came down on Speech Day, what would
the boys think of him? It had never occurred to me
before to doubt my father. He is just himself. They
could never appreciate all the fine shades of his charac-
ter. His sense of honour, his loyalty, his independence,
his truthfulness. He might wear the wrong clothes! he
might drop an h or b. g! or he might say something
which showed that he was not an hotel proprietor, but a
publican ! He might come down in brown gaiters and
square-toed boots ! Appalling ! I began to realise that
Leydhurst was casting its spell over me.
Indeed, it did not take long for this metamorphosis to
take place. In the course of a few terms I was as much
of a prig as the best of them. I was as securely tied up
as the daddy-long-legs in the spider's web. I wrote a
lying letter to my father persuading him not to come
down on Speech Day, although I was yearning to see
him. I gave some rambling reason; I forget exactly
what it was. The summer term slipped by fairly
pleasantly. There was sunshine and cricket, and I had
learnt from Uncle Stephen to ^^ stand up to 'em." I
made facile friendships, learnt how to avoid being
bullied, discovered a soul in an assistant master, and was
a popular figure in the tuck-shop, being always in a posi-
tion to stand treat.
During the whole of my four and a half years the
84 ONE AFTEE ANOTHER
Head only spoke to me once — apart from the usual
business of scholastic life. On that occasion I was
standing in the corridor of the quadrangle^ and he came
past. He glanced at me and smiled pleasantly, and
It struck me at the time as being very decent of the
old chap. It implied that he recognised me and did
not take me for Simpkins junior, also that I was not
doin^ anything at the moment to annoy him, like stand-
ing on my head or putting out my tongue. But when I
look back upon it, it does not impress me as suggesting
excessive interest, when I realise that it represents the
complete record of our intercourse.
But there was a second master, who for a long time
was my form-master, who was of a more sympathetic
disposition. Like most of the other masters, he rang
the changes on tweed suits and the cloth of the Church.
— the Reverend James Parke Tidsall. He was a
middle-aged man with a laboriously over-modelled face,
sallow in colour. It seemed to be all lumps and projec-
tions. He looked like a man who had suffered untold
anguish and lived through it, or untold temptations and
mastered them; and every time he triumphed in this
way a piece of his face stuck out further. In the process
his eyes had been left right back in his head, peering
through his shaggy eyebrows like those of a bear in a
cage. But they were kindly, penetrating, interested.
He ignored me for two terms, and then one day some-
thing I said in class seemed to amuse him. I was
bidden to tea. He had a pleasant, ironic way of inviting
your opinion upon some vast generality, as though he
were trying to extract some measure of relief from the
tedious routine of school-life. He would say :
"Well, Purbeck, what do you make of life?" or
THE LIMITED MONAROHT Si
"Now, Purbeck, if you were in power, tell me what
your foreign policy would be ? "
He asked me endless and intimate questions about my
home-life, beginning with the inevitable:
" Tell me, Purbeck, what is your father ? "
To this I replied airily, " Oh, he owns hotejs, sir."
(Disgusting little snob!)
"Excellent! An excellent and essentially paternal
profession for a father. A kind of fidus Achates to the
wanderer and outcast And you! Do you propose
also to minister to the material comforts of mankind ? "
He was the only one who seemed to connect the lim-
ited monarchy in any way with the friction of the
world. He was the only cabinet minister with a for-
eign policy. I remember very vividly a remark he made
to me during my last term. He said :
"Well, Purbeck, what are you going to do in the
world ? You'll never get on by just being a nice boy."
Naturally I had no concerted programme to set before
the Kev. James Parke Tidsall, but so completely im-
pregnated was I then with the Leydhurst spirit that I
" Oh, I don't know, sir. The pater has an idea of
my going up to Oxford, and taking up law.''
A cold-blooded lie ! I never called him " the pater.''
He had never breathed a word about Oxford, and I had
as unlegal a mind as any boy in the school. But " the
law " sounded well. In the best Leydhurstian manner.
And all the time I was thinking :
" What a queer thing to say about being a nice boy !,"
It sounded so dismally weak and damning. Had I
only the limitations of the nice boy, and nothing else ?
I didn't at all want to be a nice boy. In fact, I wasn't.
I wouldn't be. I glowered against the wall, and felt un-
happy. The eyes of Mr. Tidsall were watching me
86 ONE AFTEK ANOTHER
quizzically. Suddenly, some queer spirit of revolt broke
out in me. I cut in savagely with :
" What I'd like to do myself is to keep a pub like my
father does, and hand out pots of beer^" . . .
The eyes of Mr. TidsaU completely vanished among
the projections on his face ; hundreds of little lines ran
hither and thither like streams trickling down the val-
leys between the hills. He put his arm round my shoul-
der and led me into the corridor (for the bell was ringing
" It is just as I suspected," he said.
Good! He'd suspected it; then he could tell them,
and be danmed to them.
" Mr. Goodrich and I were discussing you the other
day. He had an idea you were destined for the Church,
but I said, * No, I know quite well what Purbeck will
All right, then ; get on with it. Say a pub keeper, or
a potman . . . quick I
" ^ Only I am still a little indeterminate in which
branch it will be.' "
What do you mean? Father's only got one branch.
That's in Camden Town.
" * But,' I said, ^ I am quite convinced that Purbeck
will manifest surprising ability in one of the arts.' "
He grinned his departure into the passage to the
vestry. As I stood amongst the group of boys in the
chapel, chanting more or less in unison :
'^0 all ye little hills and sheep, Bless ye the Lord: Praise
Him and magnify Him for ever/'
it suddenly occurred to me, " He must have thought I
was acting." It was very difficult to arrive at truth in
this place. What was the old saying about Truth in
Wine ? Perhaps so. . . . Perhaps in my father's house
tEere was more truth than there was in this chapeL
THE LIMITED MONARCHY 37
Under the influence of drink men were apt to say exactly
what came into their heads. My father himself drank
sometimes, but never to excess.
*^ For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all
gods. In His hands are all the comers of the world, and
the hills and the sheep are His also."
I would like to have this service conducted just once
with everybody drunk. Especially the Head, and that
thin, vinegary little wife of his with a down on her
upper lip. 1 would like to see Tidsall and Goodrich,
and all the other masters, garrulously drunk and dis-
cussing the truth of the whole thing. Old James, the
" Stinks " master, a Scotsman and no fool, explaining
precisely what he meant by " the anger of God." How
grand it would all be! Grand and inspiring! And
Mr. Speen up in the organ-loft, leaning over the balus-
trade and telling the Head exactly what he thought of
him, in his own language (Speen was a Welshman).
And suddenly above it aU a fearful crash, and my
father's voice ringing out :
" Silence, gentlemen ! "
LAUEA came into my room to brush her hair. It
was a pleasant intimation that old customs need
j/ not be discarded because she was now a woman
of the world and I a man who had left school the pre-
vious day. I was in bed, too excited to get up ; too busy
with various anticipations. The winter sun illumined
the cosy companionableness of the whole room: the
green-tiled washstand, the buff-coloured walls, the photo-
graph of Henry Irving as Hamlet nonchalantly holding
the skull of Yorick, my school things piled up care-
lessly by the fireplace like passengers waiting at a
railway-station, and, above all, the face of Laura re-
flected in the mirror in front of the window, intensely
familiar and queerly unfamiliar. Her mobile face,
olive, foreign-looking, broadly modelled above the brow,
her dark, animated eyes and full red lips. She swung
her head first one side, then the other, as she brushed
out the great tresses of her blue-black hair . . . absorb-
ingly interesting. She talked breathlessly, but I was
almost too consumed with the vision of her to listen
properly. How beautiful she was growing ! At least,
no, not exactly beautiful; but you had to look at her.
She gripped you. There was always something going
on about her.
" She is like a musical instrument herself," I thought.
" You can play on her."
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
LATJKA'S AFFAIR 39
I knew all about Laura and her glorious life. She
wrote me breathless letters to school fairly regularly, but
always with the " frantic haste " side emphasised.
When she went to the Academy they soon found out that
her second study — the fiddle — should really be the
first study, so the piano had had to play second fiddle,
as it were. She was very much in earnest, worked like
a Trojan, and had undeniable talent. She was
launched. The Career, with a very, very big capital C,
was already in progress. She had played at the Fort-
nightlies and at a public concert at Blackheath ; and she
drove about London in hansom-cabs with young men.
Magnificent ! And yet there was something more than
this about Laura which fascinated me. She was so very
much a woman and so completely incomprehensible. It
was largely this incomprehensibility which intrigued me,
I think. It seemed to link me to all the potentialities of
romance. As I watched her the memory of Leydhurst
dwindled to a sound like a toneless repetition of a
proposition in Euclid ... as though one had spent
years proving something that had been proved already,
and wasn't really worth proving when you had done it.
A middle-aged lady named Mrs. Snell, and a great
friend of stepmother's, once said : " Laura is one of
these temperamental women. That is to say, she's al-
ways either irritable or amorous."
On the surface there was a horrid element of truth in
that statement. No one could be more charming than
Laura, acutely sympathetic, aflFectionate and gay. On
the other hand, no one could be more trying or unreason-
able. She magnified trifles, worked herself into a
frenzy over quite hypothetical grievances, was easily
jealous, and could at times be positively cruel.
40 ONE AFTEK ANOTHER
I do not know what she had been saying, but I found
her sitting on my bed. She was still busy with her hair.
Suddenly she said :
" Did the boys ever say anything about it ? "
" Dad's business.'^
I felt an odd feeling of shame creep over me. I re-
" No. They didn't know — exactly."
She gave me one of her quick looks and said :
" You never told them ? "
" No — I — I didn't tell them."
Some tremendous emotion was passing over her face.
She jammed hairpins into a dangerous position in her
mouth and spluttered through them:
"I didn't either, but — they found out It's dis-
I felt peculiarly guilty. Laura and I were both
guilty, and both rather mean.
" After all," I said rather lamely, " it's nothing to be
She stood up and exclaimed quite fiercely :
" Isn't it ! You wait till you start doing things 1 "
She shook out her hair again vigorously. Then she
" Do you know, it's been perfectly beastly ! I know
what they all think. When anyone — wants to bring
me home in a cab, I — never let them come to the door.
I get off in the Camden Road. I make some excuse.
But all the same, they know. I can tell by the way they
look at me. I've heard some of the girls snigger, and
refer to beer.'^
It was obviously up to me to defend my father's posi-
LAURA'S APFAIR 41
tioiL I had never given the ethical side of the problem
much consideration. I had simply felt unreasonably
ashamed, like Laura — a shame prompted mostly by the
thought of what others would ihink. I sat up in bed and
" As you know, dad conducts his business as decently
as any tradesman in Camden Town. Anyone will tell
you. It's caddish of us to criticise. He earns the
money that keeps us. There's nothing wrong with the
business when it's decently conducted. It's simply the
abuse that's bad. It's just the same with a butcher or
a grocer. If people go and eat too much you can't blame
the butcher or the grocer."
" I know I I know all about that," replied Laura.
"At the same time, it's beastly! Especially when
you're trying to do things. You come up against it all
She began rolling up her hair at a furious pace.
" You needn't pretend," she went on. " You've
found it out already. Why did you always write and
choke dad off coming down to you on Speech Days ? "
This was an unpleasant thrust. A bold insinuation
that I not only denied my father's business, but that I
repudiated my father himself. It was a fact I would
never acknowledge, even to myself. How disgusting
Laura was I
" I only thought it would bore him," I ventured.
Jjaura laughed, implying that she knew that I knew
that I was lying. Why was Laura always so annoying
in this way? She always lived in the instant. I had
been away for all this time, and directly I got home she
butted in at once with all this unpleasant innuendo. I
wanted to begin at the beginning. One might go away
for five years, and Laura would meet you at the station
on your return, and you would perhaps find her having
a row with a porter. And she would continue the row
42 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
and be full of the details of it for half an hour, as though *
it were a more important event than your return. You
had to know her very well to know that of course she
didn't really think so. You had to play her like a
salmon. She would swing back after a time and would
demand to know every little incident of your journey.
And afterwards you would find that she had forgotten
nothing that you told her. In fact, she would remember
things you said, and bring them up in argument against
you years after. Some little incidents you might relate
which occurred to you as being trivial and humorous, and
she would find them tragic and almost unbearable.
Other episodes which appeared to you quite ordinary
would supply her with an inexhaustible fund of mirth.
Of course I couldn't repudiate the dad ! At least, not
exactly. It was only the slow realisation that the two
ingredients wouldn't mix. I thought much more of the
dad than I did of the school. Only I was not strong
enough to stand up against the school atmosphere.
Father wasn't cultivated, of course. ... I remembered
one day after my first year making some reference to
Darwin. Father had immediately fired up.
"Darwin! Fiddlesticks! Don't talk to me about
Darwin. What I say is, if a man came from a monkey,
why shouldn't a cock-sparrow have come from an ele-
Quite unanswerable, but it wouldn't do, you know.
Fancy the Rev. James Parke Tidsall overhearing such a
remark I ... It wouldn't do at all. It was very grad-
ual, this process of discovering the danger of a little
knowledge. And here was Laura taunting me with her
" trying to do things." Of course I meant to try and
do things. Laura wasn't going to have it aU her own
way. I said spitefully:
" Well, cheese it I I'm going to get up."
In a flash the mood of Laura swung to the opposite
LAURA'S AFFAIR 48
pole. She Btruck an attitude, holding the brush abo^e
her head, her eyes dancing with merriment.
" I haven't told you the news I " she exclaimed.
" The Zulu pudding has got a young man."
She burst into laughter and rolled me over on the bed,
and I laughed too. Then, picking up my trousers, she
threw them at me and rushed out of the room. How
fine this life was ! How adorable was Laura I
I stood looking out of the play-room window. At
least, it was no longer now the play-room. It was
Laura's " studio." AH our old toys were buried away
in boxes. Here she came to practise the fiddle by the
hour. It was right away from the rest of the house.
The floor was covered with cork-lino. In the comer
was a sewing-machine covered up with a wooden lid of
some reddish-brown wood. A brass music-stand by the
gas-fire held some open sheets of music. Bach ! Music
was piled up on the floor and on a small bamboo table.
There was a heavy leather-upholstered chair and two
stools. Odd collections of trunks and bed-fittings tried
to hide themselves behind a serge curtain. Cecil Aldin's
dogs had been taken down and were superseded by two
reproductions of Raphaels. It was partly Laura's room
and partly a place of transition. Not a very satisfactory
combination. Laura had not come home from the
Academy. I was waiting for tea. A fine rain was driv-
ing into the darkening streets. Just opposite, a hurdy-
gurdy was grinding out a perfectly heart-breaking dirge.
The gas-fire hummed. London could be very melan-
I enjoyed my periods of melancholy in the same way
that I enjoyed a London fog. It was a mysterious con-
44 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
dition out of which anything might suddenly appear.
I loved the mournful tune of the hurdy-gurdy, thick,
treacly, opaque . . • and downstairs in the parlour the
gas would be lighted, the tea-cups shining, probably but-
tered buns. . . . Laura full of exciting tidings, step-
mother mildly tremulous, father contagious — blinking
round the room, pretending not to be excited too. All
very familiar and very dear, to be viewed at various and
abrupt angles. A church spire asserted itself vaguely
across a vista of chimney-pots. Always beautiful, build-
ings stretching skywards. Like Oxford, perhaps.
Strange I should have said that to the Rev. Parke Tid- ^
sail. " Oxford and the law.'^ It was the most Leyd- '
bursty attitude of me, the upward thrust of the limited
monarchy. . . . Oxford, a dream like going back to
the Middle Ages and eating iced meringues, ragging
one's way through a Consistory of parchment prelates,
being a hero in The Boy's Own Paper serial : the vision
gripped me in my most pliable mood. My most vivid
friend at Leydhurst, Martyn, really was going up to
Oxford, probably the law, possibly politics. But Mar-
tyn had it all, all that Oxford would demand of him.
I could see him slipping into the toga of the pleasant,
cynical reverence for the "ghosts of England's great-
ness "... a bom theorist, crushed by this weight of
masonry and taking it all " like a gentleman." I hadn't
got it. Oxford was too romantic for me. ... I should
go mad ! My scale of social values was still imperfectly
adjusted. Had Oxford its three bars ?
At the Grammar School Laura and I triumphed by
the sheer weight of our following. Our new satchels
and boots, our barmaids and prize-fighters and Zulu
puddings put them all to rout Our position appeared
impregnable. Leydhurst and the Royal Academy of
Music shifted the focus to a disturbing angle. Certain,
things wouldn't do. Certain things weren't done. On«
LAURA'S AFFAIR ^ 45
might drink his liquor, but one doesn't shake hands with
the landlord. Cake for tea and the pantomime at
Christmas is not wealth. Should the paintwork of a
parlour be picked out in two shades of green? Nay,
does one have a parlour at all ? How maddening it all
was ! Poor Laura ! she had felt it most bitterly. Per-
haps she had been to places where things were ordered
differently, been criticised, ostracised, suffered endless
As I stood there, I suffered a sudden realisation of
a very definite fact. Something about the sewing-
-machine in its red-wood case brought it home to me.
Father was not really rich. He was only rich in the
Granunar School sense. The gilt mirrors in the draw-
ing-room, the superabundance of heavy furniture in
the parlour, the plush curtains, the wax fruit, and " The
Death of Wolfe " — all an illusion and a snare. The
realisation did not distress me. In some peculiar way
I felt relieved. Oxford was a mirage — stone fingers
pointing at the sky — just another limited monarchy,
or perhaps a collection of limited monarchies. What
was it people meant by "the Oxford manner"? It
must mean that if you once went there you could never
eradicate the taint. Even Leydhurst cast its spell, im-
pressed you with a more or less permanent attitude, but
Oxford would permeate you. There could be no escape.
At the age of sixty you would not be yourself, but an
automaton moving up and down " in the Oxford man-
ner." To live, one must always be escaping. I can
hear Laura. She is laughing on the floor below, her
face bright and pink with the cold wind, her black furs
tucked tight beneath her chin. She will haYC a lot to
say. Father is moving heavily on the stairs and laugh-
ing, too. His voice comes booming up:
46 ONE AFTEE ANOTHER
" What was it the King of North Carolina said to
Thank God I
Was there ever anything so persistent as Laura's first
lover ? I think he excited me more than he did Laura
herself. I'm not sure that he was absolutely her first
lover, but he was the first to break through the cordon
of our reserves and carry " The Duchess of Pless '' by
assault. He was a fellow-student at the Koyal Acad-
emy, and his name was Anton Zuk. I could only
piece his story together from my own observations, and
from various confessions which Laura was good enough
to give me. His mother was French and his father
was a Czech. His father had been killed in a duel
over some affair connected with a Polish dancer. His
mother had served a term of imprisonment for throw-
ing vitriol over the wife of a Government official.
Neither of the love-affairs were in any way connected.
When released, she had brought the boy Anton to Eng-
land. He was then fifteen. Both he and his mother
detested England. " They could think of nothing bad
enough to say of the place or the people, but they had
continued to live here for ten years. His mother had a
certain amount of money, and they lived in a fiat in
Netting Hill. As a musician he had no technique at
all, but he was a kind of musical maniac. He had a
small, sweet tone, and after he had played he waa
speechless with emqtion for several minutes. One felt
he was going to be ill. His face went a kind of greeny
colour, his lips trembled, and his eyes quivered danger-
ously. His hatred and contempt for all other musicians
was almost painful. If you mentioned their names, he
fi^flve ft hiss like a snake. At the fortnightly concerts
LAURA'S AFFAIR 47
he hissed the other students. He hissed his professor
when he criticised him. He had a small black mous-
tache which he jerked up round his nose on such occa-
sions, exposing a line of brilliantly white teeth.
His mother encouraged these manifestations. He
would play some quite ordinary little air, dragging it
out, smudging the passages, and over-sentimentalising
it, and accompanying the whole performance with loud
snortings and gasps. When he had finished he would
put his violin down and stand there like a tottering
statue. His mother would rush across the room and
throw her arms round his neck, and weep, murmuring
" Oh, ma mie . . . ma mie . . . adorable ! "
One day at the Academy, Laura was practising in one
of the rooms whilst waiting for her professor. She had,
as a matter of fact, gone to the wrong room. The pro-
fessor had not turned up; she continued to enjoy her-
self. She said she played very well. When she had
finished she was about to put her violin back in its case,
when she observed a small man tip-toeing across the
room. It was Anton Zuk. She knew him by sight.
She said :
The room was getting dark. He made no reply, but
as he advanced she noticed that his eyes were shining.
He stretched out both hands to her and almost involun-
tarily she placed hers in his, to find in less than a
minute that they were saturated with tears and kisses.
" At last ! At last ! " was all He said.
She said that the experience produced in her an odd
sense of mystified elation. She could not make up her
mind whether she wanted to kiss him on the lips or to
box his ears. She did neither, but stood there power-
less. He continued to hold her hands, but looking
wildly into her eyes, he murmured :
48 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
" Ton . . . you, I adore you. I have watched you.
You are the only one. An artist, a musician. All your
soul. . . . Godl how beautiful you are! "
What could Laura be expected to do? She was
twenty. It was the first time anyone had told her she
was "an artist, a musician." The first time anyone
had singled her out and told her she was beautiful. The
whole thing was too good to be thrown away. Her own
romantic impulses were profoundly stirred. She drew
her hands away at last and replied feebly:
"Oh, do you think so?"
The outer fortifications had fallen. She put up a
stiff fight to defend the approaches to " The Duchess
of Pless." She manoeuvred with him over teas and
lunches. She skirmished with him in passages and
corridors. She marooned him in Regent's Park„ and
completely side-tracked him in the Camden Road.
One day she unburdened her soul to him. In reply
to his protestations, she said:
" I can't ask you home, Anton. My father keeps a
For a moment he appeared to tremble, then, seizing
her hands feverishly, he whispered:
" I will wash it all away with my tears."
The vision of Anton Zuk washing away such a solid
institution as " The Duchess of Pless " with his tears
might have stirred her risibility, only that she felt a
little shocked and offended. What did he mean? It
wasn't at all the right kind of reply. As a matter of
fact, Herr Zuk did not properly understand the mean-
ing of a " public-house." It came out afterwards, in
the course of a fevered attempt at reconciliation, that
he thought " a public-house " was a kind of house of
ill-fame. The revelation did not amend matters, but
it produced storms of emotion, cross-currents of mis-
understanding; it taxed the maternal resources of
LAUEA'S AFFAIR 49
Laura. AU her pity for him welled up. She enjoyed
And one Sunday evening, quite unbidden, he called.
He had tracked her to her lair. The visit was not a
success. Uncle Stephen was there, and two old friends
.of father's, a Mr. and Mrs. Pennycuick, also connected
with the licensing trade. Anton sulked in the corner,
never taking his eyes off Laura except to bare his teeth
at the company. Mr. Pennycuick, a large, impersonal
man with a red, mobile face and a highly-coloured waist-
coat held together with hundreds of leather buttons, once
rounded him up and gave him a long dissertation on
music-hall comedians in the 'seventies. It came about
through hearing that Anton was a musician. He stood
it for nearly fifteen minutes, then he turned abruptly
away. A little later on he vanished without saying a
When he had gone, father showed his disapproval by
a sullen gloom.
Unde Stephen butted in with :
'^ Who is this garlic-eating little mountebank you had
Mrs. Pennycuick sniggered and said :
" Eeally ! I thought these foreigners were supposed
to have manners ? Eeally ! "
The thing might have fizzled out except for this oppo-
sition. Laura naturally took his side. She said he
was a genius — a great artist ; none of us could under-
stand him. She flounced out of the room and went to
bed without supper.
The next day she walked with him in Eegent's Park.
He observed her sympathetic mien, and crowded in all
" It is horrible . . . horrible, this life of yours," he
growled. " These people — s'ss — that fat man. Who
are they all ? Laura, you must oome away with me. I
60 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
will save you from them — s'ss ! God 1 how I love you.
You have beauty, intelligence, a souL You should live
where only beauty moves softly. Some little place we
will have just to ourselves. You and I. And at night
I will draw the great curtain, and you shall play to
me — the Lalo, as you did this afternoon. And I will
sit so, with my eyes closed, crushing out the memory
of everything except you . . . you, slowly swaying to
the rhythm of my lover."
He gripped her hand and added: ** To-morrow you
shall kaow everything."
There was something intriguing in this idea. Laura
had always wanted to know everything. It sounded
dangerous, and Laura was never known to flinch at
They met on a bridge over Regent^s Park Canal. His
face was deadly white, and he was restless and mysteri-
ous. Suddenly he snatched a book from his breast-
pocket. It was an old Bible in Czech characters.
"Look," he said. "This was my father's Bible.
He carried it with him on his campaigns. See my love
for you." .
He opened it and tore out a handful of pages — the
whole of the Book of Deuteronomy — and flung them
over the railing. A light wind scattered them over
the surface of the canal.
" So I would tear out all that is sacred in me to serve
you. These sheets, like the blood from my heart, shall
mingle with the waters of the river. On and on they
shall go till they reach the great sea. And St. Aloysius
will find them. He is my patron saint. He will un-
derstand my message."
"But this isn't a river, this is only a canal. It
doesn't run into the sea at all ! "
Poor Laura! I don't know whether he ever kissed
her, but I know he bit her once in a paroxysm of love
LAURA'S AFFAIR 51
or hate. The scar was on the angle of her jaw for
weeks. He was always hanging about the road when
she went out. He sent her enormous bouquets of orchids
and boxes of sweets tied up with scented ribbons. He
sneaked into the house at odd times, and once went into
the bar* Unfortunately, not knowing the ropes ol the
establishment, he went into the public bar, drank two
glasses of beer, and nearly got thrown out by Jingle
for having a row with a navvy. He sent her long
poems in French, broke his violin over his knee in a
fit of humility at her superior playing, threatened her
with a revolver and two knives ; appeared one day with
a gash above his heart. He had tried to stab himself
but fainted before the fell deed was accomplished. He
made love, swore, cursed, whined, and threatened in five
European languages and one Asiatic. What was Laura
to nuie of it ? Was ever woman in this manner wooed ?
Was ever woman in this manner won? The answer is
It was father who cut the Gordian knot of this erotic
persecution. I know, because I happened to observe
the whole performance. Anton had called, and Laura
was out. I watched the top of his head as he walked
reluctantly downstairs. At the foot of the stairs was
father He looked ugly, very thick and square in his
tweed knickerbockers and brown gaiters and square-toed
boots, still glistening with the early-morning gloss. Htis
face was rather red and his eyes protruded, as they did
when anything excited him. His hair stuck out, and
he was bristling like an Irish terrier watching a rabbit-
hole. He spoke quite calmly, but with a note of acid
" Look here, if I find you hanging about my gal any
more, I'll give you a damn good hiding.''
SUCKLING and Gradidge, two other clerks, and I
sat on high stools, balancing the quarterly ac-
counts. Mr. Barnard, the managing director of
Messrs. Braysf elt & Stene, the wall-paper manufacturers
in High Street, Marylebone, had impressed upon us the
necessity of getting the work finished by Saturday.
This was Thursday afternoon. An exhausted sun crept
down the flank of the high building in the court and cast
wistful patterns on our desks and ledgers. A quarter
past five — another hour and a quarter to go. What
an important companion is a clock when you are em-
ployed on uncongenial work ! He is either your friend
or your enemy. He has two friendly hours — lunch-
time and knocking-off time. Otherwise you do your
best not to gaze upon his face, and yet your eye is
always wandering thither, and then he is your enemy.
A good plan is to persuade yourself that it is much
earlier than it is, then if you look up he gives you a
pleasant smile. But woe unto you if you worry him I
He frowns, and frowns, and sulks — sometimes he
appears to stop altogether. I was in a bad mood. My
clock detested and tortured me. Something about the
sunlight stirred memories of Leydhurst. Not such a
bad place, after all, the limited monarchy. The habit
of cricket, and sport, and rags takes a lot of eradicating
from the blood. The schoolboy in a city oflSce . . .
cruel! The transit should be more gradual. What
sort of school had Suckling been to ? I never liked to
ask him. He was much older than I. He might have
been bom and bred in this place. He had a clear-cut^
bird-like face, with glasses, and his long broad fingers
were interminably stained with red and black ink.
He seldom smiled, but was always pleasant and good-
tempered. His life appeared to satisfy him. Not so
Gradidge, who was a glutton for work but always in a
state of revolt about some little thing. A North coun-
tryman, clear-headed, ambitious, and frankly a material-
ist, but with a mild sympathy for other things. He
was only dissatisfied because he was not making more
money. Strange that it should have come to this.
Not Oxford and the law, or even one of the arts, as
Mr. Tidsall hinted, but — just going on being a nice
I know I had been a nice boy in a fateful interview
with dad. Some parents have a genius for concealing
their feelings, and male parents have a special side-
line genius for lying low about their business affairs
with the family. Neither Laura nor I had the faintest
idea what father's position was: whether we ought to
be prodigal, or whether we ought to be economical.
He gave us everything we wanted, but kept the reins
well in his own hand. Laura was now twenty-one, and
explained to me that other girls at the E.A. had an
allowance. Father would not do that. He never de-
nied her a penny, but she had to come and ask for it.
And then, a month after my leaving school, occurred
that embarrassing interview.
I can see father now, pushing his way about the
furniture in the parlour, rather red in the face, blow-
ing his nose an unnecessary number of times. Some-
thing, it appeared, had gone* wrong. One of his part-
64 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
ners had defaulted — an awful muddle about some
shares. All news to me. This was the first I had
heard of partners. I had always looked upon ''The
Duchess of Pless " as a benevolent autocracy. Father
was frightfully upset — obviously worried. He had
had other hopes for me. (Oxford?) Now he feared
I should have to buckle down. It was very regrettable.
Oh no, not really — serious. We could all go on the
same. Laura must continue her studies. She would
complete her course soon. Only ... he had hoped
something better. I must choose a career. We should
all have to hedge a little.
A career ! Under the circumstances how could I hit
upoi) the choice of one of the idle and quite unnecessary
arts ? I felt a wave of chivalry and conmiercial ambi-
tion sweep over me. It would be my mission to save
my father's house.
" How would it do if I helped you, dad t "
What a nice boy I was I But my father shook his
head dubiously. No, the licensing trade was not one
he would recommend to — me. If I thought of enter-
infi^ a commercial house, it could easily be arranged.
Chartered accountancy, insurance, ship-broking, all
good, remunerative professions to a young and energetic
man. As my father fidgeted with the arm of the horse-
hair chair I realised that he knew nothing about me
except that I was a nice boy. I knew even less about
him, except that he was my father. Love blinds one.
Children to parents are an embarrassing joy, seen
through an emotional mist. He looked so helpless and
imget-at-able. My heart bled with pity for him.
Again he spoke :
" Things will mend, I hope. I'm sure they will.
My friend Barnard, the wall-paper man, said he could
do with a lad to learn the business . . . could start
straight away on a low salary. I want you to do what
you like, Tom.*'
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
I was thrilled, but disappointed. Quite soon, what-
ever else happened, I should be encountering new ex-
periences, rubbing shoulders with f ellow-strugglers, see-
ing new faces, earning my living, starting out on that
long trail to the Mecca of what we call — independence.
But — a wall-paper factory did not appear very allur-
ing. It had not the human appeal of my father^s
splendid bars. Wall-papers were a background. It
was the actors themselves who moved me. I wriggled
from one leg to another, and answered :
" That would be fine."
The spring found me learning the wall-paper tirade
as a junior clerk. I was taken over the factory and
shown the various processes of sizing, printing, flocking,
gilding, and folding. The old building seemed to rock
with the eternal rumble of rollers and machinery.
Doors banged. Boys, with their faces splashed with
whitening, rushed hither and thither. Men in white
linen overalls performed dexterous feats of conversion
upon lengths of white paper with the aid of sticks and
rollers and machines. It fascinated me to watch thef
pattern grow. One, two, three, sometimes as many as
seventeen printings, and behold ! rich bunches of flowers
and vines ready for my lady's boudoir. It seemed in-
credible that there could be enough bare walls to sup-
port all this illusion. I began to love the smell of size.
Every trade has its smell which to the craftsman is as
inspiring as salt to a sailor. But down in the dingy
offices among the account books and ledgers my soul
dried up. It was there I began to understand about
Still only — ^twenty past five. Another hour and ten
minutes. Damn Suckling! Why doesn't he scream or
sing? It is summer time . . . July. The fields at
Leydhurst will be green and cool. Perhaps there's a
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
5« ONE AFTER ANOTHER
school match to-day. Long and Biddle coming out to
bat. The boys cheering. A starling twittering above
the pavilion. . . .
What are all these figures ? IWe added them up three
times. Twice they were diflFerent — the first time I've
forgotten. I was always bad at figures. "Maths."
proved my Sedan in the Metric: I must make an ef-
fort £47 15s 3d. No, it's never been that before.
What a queer-shaped head Gradidge has. Like a ram-
His forehead bulges out, but there's no back to it. Has
Gradidge people? A mother? A sister? Of course
he's married! He's always talking about " the missus,"
as one might talk of " the Press " or " the Government."
Whatever sort of woman would she be ? A decent chap,
but how horrible to be married to him! Everything
would become tight, formed, inelastic. As he gets older
the way will narrow and narrow. I mustn't do that.
The woman I marry . . . apple-blossoms again^jt a sky
heavy with heatrmist, king cups and clover diapering the
green meadows, a skylark singing of lovers who have
passed, the air tender with unborn memories . . . why
unborn? Because I know all about them before they
happen — these episodes. I shall only live them all
again. Her eyes melting before the fire of mine, the
fragrance of her body ... is it all unknown to me be-
cause I have not met her? She is coming across the
meadows, alert and watchful; her little chin is raised
in expectation, her cheeks dimple, the apple-blossom
nods approval ; sunburnt mirth sparkles from her eyes,
she stretches out her arms . . .
Hullo ! It's half -past six.
Laura suffered from a popular womaijly illusion.
Which is, that if a thing is reasonable it ought to be
done, and done at once and unquestioningly. This has
never been man's way. He knows too much about logic
to employ any of the dangerous stuff. He equivocates
and buries his head in the sand. Reason has never been
a very powerful factor in shaping human affairs. Love,
greed, and the Roman Catholic Church, even the daily
Press, have all done more.
Laura had nothing of the conspirator about her. If
she wanted a thing, she yelled for it instantly. If de-
nied it, she wanted to know why, and the reason had to
be pretty convincing. If she thought it right and rea-
sonable that she should have it, she fought for it as
relentlessly and with the same unscrupulous methods
that she employed when she fought me in the garden
about the spiders.
One evening she tracked me to my room, and began
" IVe made up my mind."
I knew this meant trouble of some sort, so I emitted a
grunt of lukewarm enquiry.
" IVe been thinking about it a lot. And I'm not
going to stand it any longer. It's ruining my career."
"Living at home. I'm going to get rooms out —
probably somewhere near Baker Street or the Park.
Of course I shall come home for the week-end and at
odd times. But I'm going to have my own place. I'm
getting on. Jakes' have got me several engagements
for next season, and I'm going to teach. If dad doesn't
like to help me out with the rent, he can do the other
I said, " But the old chap will be very upset."
Laura's eyes flashed. " I can't help that. He'll get
over it. I don't see why I should have my whole
career spoilt just to humour a whim of his."
"Well, it's not exactly a whim."
58 ONE AFTEK ANOTHER
" Living with your own people."
" Yes, it is. There's no reason for it at all."
She kicked one of my slippers across the carpet, and
" Lord ! How I hate Jhese beastly bars! The smell
of beer and tobacco, the crowds of half-drunken
" You don't go in there."
" No, but you're conscious of them all the time. And
you pass outside and see them. And everybody knows
you're connected with the beastly place. A pub! A
filthy pub! And last week-end I spent with the Cop-
leys at Tring. Bare walls, chintz, and old furniture
. . . taste, everybody moving softly, talking of inter-
esting things, a silence I never knew existed ;. like a
deep velvet curtain against which everything seems
beautiful. I'm sorry, old boy, if I seem selfish. But I
don't see why I shouldn't make a start. As a matter
of fact, I don't see why you shouldn't. You'll never
get on, going backwards and forwards between this pub
and the wall-paper factory."
" It's all very well " I began, and then I could
not exactly determine what was all very well. The
matter required enormous consideration. I hadn't
Laura's set conviction that " getting on " was the Alpha
and Omega of life. I hesitated and said :
"When are you' going?"
Father's attitude in the matter surprised me. It was
an eventuality which had never occurred to him, but
he took it very well. He was obviously a little discon-
certed, disappointed perhaps, but he laughed and ex-
" Oh-ho-ho ! So that's it, is it ? "
I saw him standing in the yard, smoking, and think-
ing it over for nearly an hour. Then he took a 'bus to
Slocombe Street, Marylebone, where Laura had taken
her rooms. He took a long look at the landlady, with-
out making any comment ; the^i he examined the drains.
Being apparently satisfied in both cases, he paid a
month's rent in advance. He allowed her to take any
furniture she wanted from the house, and he bought
her a felt for her bedroom. The rooms looked quite
pretty when Laura had finished with them, with grey
walls and white paint and one or two btilliant-coloured
cushions. She explained to me that as she got on she
was going to buy old furniture, and to return father's
piece by piece.
" I mean to have a four-post bed," she said, " and
old oak in the living-room, with Japanese prints and
Persian tiles, and a bust of Beethoven."
"What about a few original Vandykes and
Raphaels ? " I enquired.
Laura didn't take my humour in good part She
flushed and said:
" Oh ! you — you never believe in anything."
She was intensely in earnest about it all. She'looked
upon these rooms in Slocombe Street as the threshold to
the Kingdom of Fame. With the gas-ring in the tiny
kitchen, curtains to make, a hat to trim, pupils coming
at three o'clock, a visit to her agent in the morning, then
practice, practice, practice — no time for anything. A
breathless life. The clock had not the horrors for her
that it had for me. Always late, always rushed, she
sent the hours skedaddling like ninepins.
It was unfortunate that the very week she took her
departure father was laid up with rheumatism in the
eyes. It was a complaint which frequently visited
hirn. He could do nothing but stay; in bed, or sit up in
60 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
the parlour with a bandage round his head. After
supper, stepmother and I took it in turns to read to
him — articles out of the Morning Advertiser or the
serial story running in Lloyds' News. It was August,
and London was close and enervating. One night I
went up to the parlour. Father was sitting alone in
the dark. I shut the door quietly. How queer he
looked in the dim light, the bandage shutting him off
from the world. What was he thinking about ? Some-
one across the street was singing a ribald song. One
could hear down below the dim murmur of the bar, the
occasional popping of corks. How melancholy it
seemed without Laura. What a little cat she was.
Father turned and heard me.
"Is that you, Mary?"
" No, dad. It's me."
" Oh ! Light the lamp, will you, boy ? "
The green shade illumined the maze of furniture. I
drew the curtains.
" Shall I read to you, dad? "
" Oh ! . . . thanks. Yes, you might read me a bit
from the paper."
I take up the paper. I skim the headings and the
political news. Yes, stepmother has read him the de-
tails of the Whitechapel murder. I read a long report
of the Distillers' Commission . . . interminable.
What is it all about ? My thoughts are roaming while
I read. What is Laura doing ? What is it really like
at the Copleys' ? Chintz and old furniture, people mov-
ing softly and talking of interesting things. • . . How
I envy Laura, her pluck, her enterprise, her splendid
" What do you think, dad ? '*
He does not answer. I tip-toe across the room.
Father is asleep, or dreaming of something quite dif-
ferent, too. The Distillers' Commission had been too
much even for himu I lower the lights and creep out
of the roonu Downstairs the bars are gaily lighted. I
boldly enter. I am allowed to do this occasionally, now
that I am a man of the world. That is, if I have a
reason. To-night I want to see the evening paper. It
is in any case sufficient excuse. The saloon is nearly
empty, but the public and private are full of animation.
I get out of the way and pretend to read. The majestic
figure of Mrs. Beddoes sways backwards and forwards,
carrying tankards of ale. May has left, and a dark girl
with a provocative giggle has taken her place. Olive
still watches for the prince to enter. She is absently
listening to a young man who is telling her some story
in a shrill wheeze of how " he did the old bird in." In
the private bar are two men having an animated debate.
One is a forlorn individual who might be a funeral
mute. The other is a thick-set man with side-whiskers.
He keeps tapping the other on the top waistcoat-button
and saying, " Look here. Small." Tie makes a gurgle
as though his argument were suspended above the
other's head, ready to drop and crush him. I am sud-
denly alive to the nature of this remarkable discussion.
They are arguing as to whether Jesus Christ would have
been a Liberal or a Conservative. The thick-set man
is getting the best of it, for the reason that he has a
greater capacity for not listening.
" Tou can say what you like. Small," he insists, " the
teachings of Jesus Christ go to show that He was a
true-blue Tory. He said, * The poor ye have with ye
always, but Me ye have not always.' What does this
mean ? It might have been cut out of a leading article
in the Standard or the Morning Post Then He said,
* I come not to bring peace but a sword.' What's that ?
" Yes, but, my dear fellow "
62 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
" Listen to me, Small. Talking about the sword like
that showed He was a militarist. Then He said, ^ Ren-
der unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's.' In other
words — support the Constitution. That showed He
was a financier. Turning water into wine showed He
was in with the brewers. By God ! He might have sat
in Lord Salisbury's Cabinet."
*' Yes, but what about the Sermon on the Mount ? "
" Listen to me, Small . . ."
I could listen all night. Father would not approve of
this profane discussion. He would order it to cease.
But how daring 1 It was just what I had dreamed
might take place in the chapel at Leydhurst. Was the
thick-set man sincere? Possibly. Or he may have
only been experimenting in his own mind. Some small
corner of it became suddenly alive and luminous. Man
is the hunter, eternally seeking quarry. Why shouldn't
he experiment ? Old James, the " Stinks " master,
would probably talk like this in his cups — perhaps more
logically and convincingly, but still experimentally.
What are we all doing? We can't stew in a chapel,
repeating things we are not allowed to question. My
heart warms to these companionable fellows. Is there
truth in the cup ? Not only truth, but adventure, toler-
ance, and a kind of high, romantic courage ?
Laura a hostess, serving tea in her own " place." I
a guest. In fact, one of several guests. Five of us, and
the other four musicians. Septimus Coyne, one of the
young British composers, flaccid and rather shiny, with
a scrumply down upon his chin which you don't know
whether to be intentional or not; Angus Colum, a
heavily-built boy with a flat top to his head, leaning for-
ward on his knees and turning his head from side to
side, as he grins at the various speakers with an expres-
sion which seems to say: "Music's the only thing
worth talking about, and even that is rather piffle." He
is a violinist, and so is Daisy Weir, a thin, straight' girl
whose head is too large for her, and comes forward.
She speaks rapidly and emphasises her points by shak-
ing her curls at the listener. The fourth musician is
In truth, I find my social debut disturbing. I am not
a success. They talk music the whole afternoon. Both
the men ignore me, except Coyne, who once asks if I
have ever had nettlerash. When I say no, he seems dis-
appointed and settles down into a kind of coma. The
room is growing darker. Once I rise and go and look
out of the window. The street is deserted, except for a
lamplighter crossing backwards and forwards. Above
the roofs of the houses a star surprises me in the colour-
less sky. Someone is standing close behind me, and^a
"Don't you love it . . . all this?"
As I turn and look at her, I am profoundly conscious
of what she means. It is as though an angel were
snatching me from my vision of failure. I rise to the
highest pinnacles. She is — I don't know what she is,
but I know what she is thinking. Do I love it, all this ?
This contact with youth blissfully intent on life, watch-
ing alertly . . . the melancholy mien of the dying day,
the autumn with its tang of wakefulness and hope, the
lamplighter? All my emotions are arrested, held and
quickened. I do not know what her face is like. It is
all in half-shadows, and her deep eyes are questioning
m^ ^t is just at that angle I shall always see her, as
64 ONE APTER ANOTHER
though coming towards me, drawing me, then holding
me suspended. Yes, yes, I love it all. But it is you,
the contact of this autumn night with you and your
disturbing sense of having lived it all before, and yet
the blinding surprise, amazement, unexpectedness of
THEEE was an awful to^o about socks on the
day of our wedding. Mary took over the man-
agement of me shortly after we were engaged.
She thought about all the little things. She wedded
herself to my domestic life. It is indeed an excellent
plan. One slides into married life, without that abrupt
plunge which often proves so chilling. In the first
place, I was initiated into the true significance of Wood-
stack. Woodstack is the name of a small town in Sur-
rey, but it came to represent something infinitely more
important. It was a tradition, a cult, a revelation, an
entirely new experience. The people who lived at
Woodstack lived in a world as remote from the people
who frequented " The Duchess of Pless '' as the Caspian
Sea is remote from one of the Highgate ponds. At
Woodstack one could not believe that " The Duchess of
Pless " existed. The whole key of my mental outlook
I spent a whole year listening, and being surprised.
I was madly jealous of all these people who frequented
the Copleys' house. They all seemed so clever, and so-
phisticated, and intimate, and comfortable. I only es-
caped exposing my Philistine upbringing by remaining
silent. I believe I must have almost acquired the repu-
tation of being one of these " strong, silent men." It is
a reputation easy to acquire. If you remain silent and
66 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
keep on f rowningy people are apt to take the strength for
I frowned because I was angry with myself. I was
not entirely ignorant of the matters discussed, but I was
feeling my way, and seldom had the courage to express
an individual opinion upon these important abstract
things. I envied the young man who said that " Schu-
mann bored him to tears." I would have given any-
thing to have been able to make such a colossal pro-
nouncement. I envied a thin girl who said there was
absolutely nothing in the Royal Academy worth looking
at, and that an interior by Peter de Hoogh in the Na-
tional Gallery was worth all the Turners put tc^thw.
I envied Laura. Except for music, she knew very little
more than I did, but she was absolutely emphatic She
fitted into this atmosphere with complete success. The
fact that she was a really talented violinist excused a
lot, but she was always willing to give an opinion upon
literature or painting or any other subject with an un-
compromising conviction, and to argue about it. She
did not care what anybody thought. They could like
her or dislike her, but they couldn't ignore her. And
for the most part Woodstack liked her. Mary, and her
mother, and her brother Giles adored Laura. She was
becoming, if not a beautiful in any case a very striking
woman, with her dark hair and eyes, and her pale, ex-
pressive face, always alight with some fury of movement.
Unfortunately for me, the majority of the Woodstack
people were musicians, and music was a subject upon
which I was profoundly ignorant I soon found, how-
ever, that even the musical profession had its three bars.
There were the half-dozen giants at the top, about whom
there was very little divergence of opinion ; then came
the rank and file of serious musicians who disagreed
about everything ; and finally, right away in a class by
themselves, came the ballad-singers.
ODD SOCKS 67
I think, of all classes of the community that I have
ever encountered, ballad-singers are the most ignorant.
They know nothing outside their own job and very little
about that. They have all the egoism of the actor with- .
out his naivete and quick sympathy. There was one
who used occasionally to visit the Copleys. Her name
was Bessie Steyning. Her conversational limit was the
phrase : " My dear, they simply loved it ! ^'
She was very large and fair. She seemed to be all
back and front — if you know what I mean. She had
masses of magnificent fair hair swathed in black-velvet
ribbons and sparkling with little gems ; a clear, beautiful
complexion needlessly powdered, and small, expression-
less eyes. She manipulated one of those high soprano
voices which are like burnished steel — clear, strong,
and unrelentingly safe. You could hear her making a
bee-line for the top C and you knew quite well she would
get there safely, and at the same time you didn't care.
She stood by the piano like a pudding. You felt that
she looked upon her voice as an asset, like a bungalow
up the river, or a set of sables ; something she meant to
get the highest rate of interest on, and at the same time
make other women envious. Her whole conversation
was designed to show that all the managers were run-
ning after her, that the public were wretched when she
was not singing, that her fees were enormous, and that,
indeed, her whole success was positively embarrassing.
Happily, the majority of the Copleys' musical friends
belonged to what I might call " the private bar " class.
They were not as trying as Bessie Steyning, but I did
not get on with them very well. They had all Laura's
self-opinionativeness without her candour. They were
supercilious, furtive, and pettily jealous of each other.
68 ONE AFTEE ANOTHEE
The most congenial spirit I met there was a landscape-
painter called Yves Eadic^ and he was half -mad, I think.
He was my first, experience of an art-madman. He
lived in a bam which he had converted into a studio, and
he lived like an emperor, without an emperor's responsi-
bilities and discomforts. He lived alone with his
career. He was of French-Polish stock, and he had a
small private income. He did his own housework and
cooking : that is to say, he occasionally removed some of
the heavier debris from his plates and dishes, or grilled
fish and sausages over a spirit-stove. He was himself
small and rather dirty, and the barn had the appearance
of being in a transitional state between habitation by
cattle or man. The floor and atmosphere suggested cat-
tle ; the bottles and canvases suggested man. There ap-
peared to be hundreds of bottles. They stood in rows
against the wall. A large circular table was piled up
with half -used tubes of paint, papers, palettes, bottles of
turpentine, oil, vinegar, beer, pieces, and vodka ; whilst
in the centre would repose half a ham, turning brown
at the edges and collecting the dust. I believe he drank
vodka as a concession to his ancestry rather than be-
cause he Uked it. The room gave one the appearance
of unbridled license.
But when I got to know Eadic I found out that he was
by no means a free man. He was a slave to an abso-
lutely autocratic artistic conscience. He was funda-
mentally one of the most sincere people I had ever met
His juanners were appalling. I cannot think why he
took to me, but he did. He asked me to go and see him.
I could not get the hang of his work at first, but grad-
ually it grew on me. His landscapes were very low-
toned. At first they seemed to me to be almost mono-
tone", then I discovered that they were indeed full of col-
our, but in a very restrained key. Tears afterwards I
realised that they were founded rather on the manner of
ODD SOCKS 69
Daubigny and Pointelin, but I had not seen any of these
artists' work at that time. He had a way of making me
sit down, and then he would produce a canvas and hug it
to himseK, look across at me suspiciously, and fumble
about with it and lick his lips. Then suddenly he would
turn it round for my inspection, and glance quickly,
almost fiercely, at my face for a verdict. I had a feel-
ing that if I looked at it disapprovingly he might rush
at me with a palette-knife. He was intensely in earnest
All this solemn nonsense of social progress, all the hub-
bub of politics, all this insanity of business, and be-
haviour and manners, nay, even the banalities of love,
and honour, and friendship might go hang. The only
thing that mattered was Art. And not only Art, but
his art, his own peculiar vision of a certain composition.
He was dirty and small, but he made Bessie Steyning
appear contemptible. In all his opinions and actions he
was extreme, but his painting was sane and sombre,
conceived on a lofty plane, composed with a reverent
regard for values. He had no moral sense. He would
sometimes disappear for days, and come back and boast
to me of his depravities. Socially he was an anarchist.
He sneered at religion, and law, and custom ; but I found
him exhilarating. I have since met men somewhat like
Badic, but never one who was so loyal to the sacred fire
within him. He believed in painting a thing direct and
leaving it. If it was not satisfactory he would do it
again. I have known him paint a subject five times,
and then destroy the result because it did not satisfy
He disturbed my conscience more than anyone I had
so far met My own life seemed weak and pitiable in
comparison. After all, what was I doing? I was
simply living up to the dismal prophecy of the Eev.
James Parke Tidsall. " A nice boy ! " I had drifted
completely. I had no definite impulses except to be
YO ONE AFTER ANOTHER
pleasant and kin<L Thanks to a quite fortuitous acci-
dent which I shall describe later, I had for the time be-
ing escaped the sordid drudgery of a life for which I was
not fitted. I had a hundred and fifty pounds a year of
my own, and I had launched out into romantic drama ;
not that I had any strong impulse to write romantic
drama, but because it occurred to me that it might be
pleasant In any case I thought it would be nice to tiy.
Laura had her career, and it consumed her. But I real-
ised that her frenzy was quite different from Radic's.
Laura wanted to fiddle well, but even more c<Hnpelling
seemed to be her desire for success. She wanted to be
acclaimed, and applauded, and written up in the Press,
to be recognised as a virtuoso. Radio exhibited his pic-
tures, but ignored everyone's opinion concerning them.
He never read the newspapers. He bared his teeth at
the mention of them. He sometimes sold his pictures,
and this seemed to worry him exceedingly. He was
haunted by the idea that someone would get hold of
them who didn't appreciate them; would probably put
them in a wrong light. He was rude to his clients, con-
temptuous of dealers, and indifferent to public opinion.
I found it necessary to point out this comparison to
Mary. And what she said was :
" It's very different with painters. Their work lives
on after them. A musician has to make his effect
while he lives. He leaves nothing behind — unless he's
a composer. It's quite natural for that dirty little
genius to be indifferent, and for Laura to be ambitious
Nothing could ever shake Mary's loyalty to Laura.
This took place at the time when I was living with
Laura in Slocombe Street, and when we were beginning
ODD SOCKS 71
to get on each other's nerves. My romantic drama was
a distinct fizzle. I gave it up haK-way through the
third act I explained to Mary that it was really
Laura's fault. I could not work in the same house
with her. And Mary said:
" Nonsense ! you could if you were keen enough."
Then I knew that that was true. I wasn't keen
enough. There must be something else. I settled
down to a course of hard reading. I joined Mudie's
and borrowed books from the Copleys! I waded through
hundreds of pages of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations
before I realised that it meant nothing to me at all.
I read Kant and Comte and Herbert Spencer, and didn't
understand them. It all seemed higgledy-piggledy.
Meredith appeared to write about snobs, Hardy about
people I cQdn't know, Stevenson about long-winded
pirates. I went on and on. I was like that steward
on the steamer in Maxim Gorky's autobiography, In the
World, who believed that if he could only go on long
enough reading books he would eventually come to the
book. But I never could get to the book. I had ex-
hausted Shakespeare at school, at the time when I be-
lieved that the last word had been said by Marcus
Aurelius. Possibly I was right. In any case, I was
at a diflScult age.
What I really liked to do was to wander about the
streets, and talk to cabmen and coffee-stall keepers, or
to go over and see my father and casually stroll into the
bar, and listen to conversations between Mr. Small and
My father took the defection of Laura and me very
well. He was always pleased to see us. He seemed
rather amused than otherwise. He was always proud
to read about Laura's performances in the newspapers,
but he never went to hear her in public, except on the
occasion when she made her debut. And then he ex-
12 ONE AFTEE ANOTHEE
pressed the opinion that he did not care for music in
a concert-hall. He preferred it in the parlour upstairs
of " The Duchess of Pless," I went to see him two or
three times a week, and Laura about once a fortnight.
To our relief he never expressed any desire to meet the
Copleys or any other of our friends. He seemed to
appreciate the fact that we had drifted into a different
set, and that it was quite natural and inevitable. Curi-
ously enough, stepmother resented our departure more
than he did. She hinted that it was unkind, and that
we had gone away because we were ashamed of the es-
tablishment, and of our " swell friends '^ getting to know
our connection with it. There was a horrid element
of truth in this, and that was why I made a point of
going whenever I could.
I enjoyed a glorious five days when I served in the
bar. Father was very opposed to it, but he eventually
gave way. He was laid up with a bad cold, and one of
the barmaids had suddenly gone off without warning
with a local bedstead manufacturer. They were very
short-handed, and business was brisk. I found the ex-
perience very entertaining. I made several friends in
each of the bars. No one impressed me more than Mr.
Timble. He was the local undertaker. A large, florid
man, always dressed in heavy mourning, he carried the
atmosphere of his mournful profession with him wheiv
ever he went Every funeral seemed to affect him as
though it were that of his dearest friend. He spoke in
a deep, hushed voice. His pale, protruding eyes seemed
ever on the verge of tears. He visited the bar several
times a day, and I always expected him to herald his
request for a whisky-and-soda with the usual formula:
" In the midst of life we are in death." But he al-
ways bowed solemnly, and said:
" Well, young Mr. Purbeck, and how is your father ? ''
When I had reported, he always continued :
ODD SOCKS 73
" I have known your father for fourteen years. An
honourable and upright man, sir ; a man to be respected.
I hope his son will be worthy of him, I'll take a small
Scotch with a splash, please."
I have an idea that he took advantage of my father's
absence. I don't believe father would have allowed him
as many drinks as he ordered. He sometimes had as
many as ten or twelve whiskies during the day. It did
not appear to affect him very seriously, except that he
became more humid and lugubrious, and perhaps a little
more confiding. He told me of some of the diflSculties
of his profession, the unreliability of mutes who were
given to insobriety and giggled on the hearse, the lack
of imagination of well-to-do people over the possibili-
ties of an impressive funeral, the ingratitude of next-
of-kin, the vulgar ostentation of the poor, who always
demanded plumes which they could not afford. I gath-
ered that he had this in common with my father, that
they both believed that there was a proper way to
conduct everything: a government, a fimeral, or a
One evening he came into the bar in a great state
of consternation. The only other person there was Mr.
Peel, the estate agent. Mr. Timble bowed to me, and
his lips quivered. He went through the usual formali-
ties, but he drank his whisky at a gulp and ordered
another. Then, drawing Mr. Peel and myself into a
confiding group, he said :
*^ Gentlemen, I have had a most distressing experi-
ence. I have been in the funeral-furnishing trade for
forty-three years, and I have never had a more distress-
Mr. Peel, a foxy little. man, said, " Go on! "
" I had the case to-day of Mrs. Boddice, the widow
of Charles Boddice, the corn-merchant. Poor thing!
She was seventy-two, and she died from double pneu-
74 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
monia. She left eleven grown-up children. She had
never lost a child in her life; an admirable woman."
" I remember 'er/' said Mr. Peel. " She 'ad a slight
moustache and used to keep a lot of little birds in
Mr. Timble drank, and continued:
" It is a customary and proper thing, as you know,
during a funeral procession, for gentlemen in the streets
to remove their hats. It is a little point about which
I am peculiarly sensitive. I always ride on the hearse
myself, and I make a particular note of this observance.
If it has been generally respected, I consider the funeral
to have been a success. If it is only partially or spas-
modically done, I consider it to be a failure. It appears
to me that people are becoming more and more irreli-
gious. The funeral of Mrs. Boddice this afternoon was
treated with scant respect. I was not surprised that
Mr. James Boddice, who was riding in the first carriage,
was extremely indignant. It is almost what I might
call part of the perquisites which one expects with a,
funeral for which one has paid ten or fifteen pounds.
At the comer of the Highgate Road the whole proces-
sion was held up ioj^ a few minutes by the traflSc. At
the comer were three loafers, leaning against a lamp-
post, talking and spitting. They ignored our — cor-
tege. I quite sympathised then with Mr. James Bod-
dice, who, unable to contain himself any longer, thrust
his head out of the window and exclaimed : ^ Hi, you
there I Take off your 'ats ! ' And then, gentlemen,
what do you think happened ? "
" Go on ! " said Mr. Peel, incredulous of whatever
" The three loafers turned round and looked at us.
Then one of them suddenly took off his hat and cheered!
Then the others followed suit, and as we proceeded up
the hill these three ruffians cheered and cheered as
ODD SOCKS 76
though it was — a Lord Mayor's Show ! Can you be-
lieve it ? . . . Can you imagine it ? "
" Go on 1" said Peel.
Yes, I could imagine it, but I had to duck behind
the shelves of bottles to focus the scena I could not
allow Mr. Timble to see my face. He would never
afterwards hold out any hope that I should be worthy of
my father. It was positive torture. I hunted for
some mysterious bottle for a long time. . . . What a
scene ! And why not ? Why should the worthy cornr
merchant's widow be cheered at her wedding, when she
had done nothing, and not get a hand at her funeral
after an honourable life, the mother of eleven, and not
losing one? Oh, James! James! what have you got
to be indignant about? ... I shall never be able to
fill my father's shoes. What would they think of me
at Woodstack if they saw me handing over two pints
of mild-and-bitter to a cabman and his friend? Even
Eadic would disapprove. Not of the act itself, but of
the waste of time. I ought to be doing something
dynamic, moving, low-toned • • . immortiJ.
I wrote to Mary about it, and she said, " Of course
you must help your father, if he is in difficulties."
Mary was never wrong. She was always completely
in tune. I can't — you may think it funny of me, but
I can't — tell you of all the incidents which led up to
our wedding. There are some things one doesn't talk
about to one's dearest friends. After all, it is no
business of yoats. I would rather not talk about it.
I would rather talk about those socks.
Mary had two hundred a year of her own, and Mrs.
Copley offered us the lease of a small house in St.
John's Wood as a wedding present. So we decided
76 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
that three hundred and fifty was ample to marry on^
and there was no point in waiting. I had no career,
and no ambitions. My only obsession at that time was
to marry Mary. There is one thing I would like to
say about us. I did not know till I met her how funny
I was. To Mary I was a perfect scream. She was
always doubling up with laughter over met
" You are a funny old thing ! " she would say as
she undid my tie and re-tied it She laughed when she
showed me how to wash my hands and clean my finger-
nails. She laughed when she showed me how to walk,
and put on a hat, and play tennis, and to rush and open
a door for a lady when she was going out of the room.
I must have been the funniest thing that ever lived.
We were married at Woodstack, in the village church.
It was what the Copleys called a quite informal wed-
ding. I only got there in time by the skin of my
teeth. The fact was, I went down from town, and as
I was rather late I thought I would get a shave at
Waterloo station. I allowed myself twenty minutes for
this, but as it happened, there were two other men
waiting, and only one barber, A boy was having his
hair cut when I went in, and the barber was just fin-
ishing. I was in a fever of agitation. The first man
had a shave and was disposed of in five minutes. I
reckoned that if the other man only took the same time
I should just have time for my shave, with five minutes
over to catch the train. But the second man seaned to
have an annoying stubbly growth that took a long time^
and the barber was of the oily, conversational type.
The seconds were ticking away. Curse him ! He was
droning on about some ridiculous murder case at Wal-
thamstow, his sharp, pointed nose sticking up in the
air. How I hated the man! Five minutes were al-
ready up. Six minutes. Six and a half — nowl
" I think I'll have a shampoo, please."
ODD SOCKS 77
Tears started to my eyes.
" My God, sir ! " I said. " Are you obliged to have
a shampoo? It doesn't seem at all necessary. I'm
in a frightful hurry."
The man looked round at me, and the barber dropped
a towel. How could I possibly explain? I said:
" Oh, go to the devil, then ! " and I dashed out of the
Father was waiting for me on the train, in a great
state of excitement, thinking I was not coming. He
had been there for fifty minutes. He usually got to a
station an hour before his train was due to start.
I arrived at Woodstack unshorn. A cab was waiting
for us. The ceremony was due in half an hour. We
told the driver to drive to the village barber's. When
we got there we found that he had shut up his shop
and gone to London to buy a bicycle.
" What the devil does a barber want with a bicycle ? "
I said savagely to his wife. I was quite unreasonable.
The only thing to do was to go to the Copleys' and
borrow Giles' razor. And then father came out with
one of his annoying superstitions. It wouldn't do at
all. A brid^room must never see the bride on the wed-
ding day till he meets her at the church. I gave it up.
" Very well, then," I said. " I'll get married dirty."
I got married dirty, and Mary seemed to think that
this was screamingly funny, too, especially when the
first thing I had to do after the ceremony was to borrow
Giles' razor and have a shave.
It was father's first meeting with the Copleys, and
he came through the ordeal very well. He was the
only man who appeared in a frock-coat and top-hat,
with a white button-hole. I was married in a tweed
suit and Mary in a navy blue travelling coat and skirt.
There were about fifteen or twenty people at the recep-
tion. Neither stepmother nor Uncle Stephen was able
78 ONE ATTER ANOTHER
to come, but Laura might have been the hostess. She
had on a wonderful light blue frock, with a picture-
hat trimmed with daisies. I think father was rather
prepared for the Woodstack crowd. Many things must
have surprised him, but he did not show it. No one
was in proper wedding garb. There was no champagne,
only hock and tea. There were no speeches. Every-
one was pleasant, informal, rather high-spirited, and
anxious to avoid any display of emotion. It must have
been different from that when he was a young man.
He was very quiet and formal. What was he thinking
of it all ? Once I heard him addressing a little speech
to Mrs. Copley. I could not catch what he said, but
I was pleased to see her face light up with surprised
pleasure. He kissed Mary, and said, " Well, God bless
you, little girl 1 '^ Quite a success, the old man. . . .
" A perfect old dear ! " Mary told me in the train.
It was an hour later, in the train, that the climax
arrived. Mary suddenly said: "What have you got
on ? ^' and she lifted up the leg of one of my trousers.
" What do you mean ? " I said.
" Those are not the socks I sent you. They were
black, with a light blue clock."
" Well ! " I answered, and I looked down and beheld
a woolly brown sock. " Oh ! " I murmured, and I
pulled up the leg of my other trouser. Then Mary
collapsed, and I was obliged to laugh too. The other
sock was black with a light blue clock.
" I must have muddled them up," I stuttered.
" Muddled them up ! Oh, you old booby ! "
" I don't think * booby ' is a right word to employ to
But Mary was completely finished. She rocked back-
wards and forwards. It was extremely difficult to
snatch a piece of her fugitive face to kiss.
When she eventually recovered she said that at Oke-
ODD SOCKS 79
hampton she would really have to see what I had
packed. We stayed the night at an hotel there. I
had packed a goodly number of things, including a bath
thermometer and some dirty collars, but no socks at all.
" It's quite time you had someone to look after you,"
she said. " To-morrow morning we shall have to go
But, strangely enough, on the morrow even Mary
seemed absent-minded. We both forgot all about the
socks. We drove out to an inn right away on Dartmoor,
and then we remembered. There were no shops within
five miles of our inn. I spent the first we^ of my
honeymoon wearing one brown woolly sock and one
black one with a light blue clock. A trivial incident,
perhaps, but it is queer how sometimes a trivial inci-
dent, about socks, for instance, may have an important
bearing on one's whole life.
NURSE DIPPER was a privileged person. An
old friend of the Copley family, old in face
and young in body, very alert and business-
like. She picked up my hat and thrust it into my hand.
" Now then," she said, " we want to get rid of you.
You go for a good sharp walk, and come back in about
an hour and a half. It^l be all right. Don't worry."
The door snapped to, and I was out alone in the rain.
I raced away into the night like a criminal escaping
from justice. I was pursued by a demon hissing into
my ear that I was running away, that I was a coward.
I wanted to go back and I wanted to go on. I must
cover so many miles. The only light in this dark sea
of fear and remorse was that I must do precisely what
the nurse told me. I looked at my watch under a street
lamp. A quarter to eleven. I had got to go on walking
till twelve-fifteen. At twelve-fifteen to the second I
should slip my latchkey into the door. To be told what ?
. . . Horrid little visions danced before my eyes. I
could see myself in the hall, the drawn face of Nurse
Dipper, perhaps stepmother. . . . Who would break
the news to me ? What fools, cowards, and egoists are
men. We take everything we want, and when the price
has got to be paid we are not there. On and on I rushed
. . . We are spendthrifts, defaulting bankrupts. It is
all so easy, natural, pleasant, so morally defensible.
We are so secure in our citadel of sense-discretion. I
wanted to get to the river, or somewhere where there
was open space, and there appeared to be nothing but
narrow streets, muffled figures, loiterers, 'buses, and
And they all appeared far away and unreal. What
was real was that room, with Mary lying in her anguish.
Perhaps at this very moment that tall doctor who had
arrived with the peculiar-shaped bag . . . And I could
do nothing; I was turned out in the rain, like a dog.
How cruel is this arbitrament of fate! To those we
love we bring unspeakable suffering, which we can
neither share in nor assuage. We do it consciously.
She endures it consciously, faiowing that nothing is pro-
duced without suffering. The history of life is a story
of epochs of travail, following one after another.
Nature is like a process of preparing banquets, and
clearing up after them, and then preparing for another
She is like a housewife, knowing that everything she
does will have to be done again. Directly the house-
wife dusts a table, the dust begins to collect again.
Directly she cooks a meal, someone devours it, and
she has to b^n to think of the next. She is sur-
rounded by destroyers, people who are always undoing
whatever she has accomplished. And she knows she
dare not stop.
A horse-tram came leisurely round the comer, with
bells tinkling — I must be somewhere in Camden Town
— the horses trotting indifferently. Horses ! Strange,
at that tragic hour, I should be consmned with another
and most unlikely vision; A horse-race ! . . . K it had
not been for a horse-raiee I should probably not have
been there at that moment. Someone had described it
to me. The previous year, a race — I think it was the
Cesarewitch — had been contested by a field of fourteen
horses, but it was considered a foregone conclusion.
82 OWE AFTER ANOTHER
The favourite, " Mohair," was considered a certainly.
I have never been to a horse-race in my life, and I had
certainly never heard of " Mohair " or any other horse.
But this race I had seen again and again in imagina-
And on this night the ridiculous spectacle danced
vividly before ma
" Mohair " broke away and had a clear field. The
horse exceeded the wildest expectations of its backers.
The whole thing appeared to be over. The crowd were
only becoming interested in seeing which of the others
would come in second and third. They were bunched
together indescribably. Entering the flat, ^^ Mohair'*
suddenly crossed its legs and fell. There was a yell of
excitement The jockeys, seeing what had happened,
urged their beasts on frenziedly. Near the winning-
post three appeared to detach themselves from the rest.
There was a confusion of black necks, and of blue, yel-
low, and claret-coloured silk. No one was quite certain
of tiie result. But when the flag went up it appeared
that the race had been won by a horse' named " Baion-
nette,'* a rank outsider. What has all this got to do
with me? ... It may appear a singularly inappro-
priate memory to have crossed my mind on that fateful
evening to me. In some ways it imdoubtedly was.
But it had happened that my Uncle Stephen was at
that race, and he had backed " Baionnetl^e " for a
hundred pounds. His reasons for backing this par-
ticular horse were obscure. He had just inherited a
small legacy, and he announced his intention to give
up horse-racing entirely. The Cesarewitch was to be
his last plunge, and he told us that he had set aside " a
certain sum for a certain purpose." This certain pur-
pose was revealed later. When the settling-up came.
Uncle Stephen had netted over six thousand pounds over
I shall never forget the night when he came to break
the news to us. He telegraphed to Laura to be at " The
Duchess of Pless " at nine o'clock, on very important
business. He came into the parlour, tugging feverishly
at his heavy black moustache. He was pretending to
be very self -restrained, but he was patently in a great
state of excitement. His eyes glowed, and he could not
sit down. I think he had been driiiing rather more
than was good for him, but he was quite lucid and co-
herent. He came straight to the point. He said :
" Laura and Tom, I have always wanted to do some-
thing for you. And now I'm glad to say I have my
chance. I don't believe in leaving people money when
you die, if you can do anything for them before. It's
when you're starting on your career that it's valuable.
I propose to settle three thousand pounds on each of
The receipt of this news was almost unnerving.
Laura gave a cry and threw her arms round his neck
and kissed him. While so occupied, I was instantly
torn between two emotions — the wild thrill of excite-
ment shared with Laura, and a peculiar apprehension
regarding my father. Stepmother and I both looked
at him. He was very solemn. When Laura had com-
pleted her manifestation of love — which, by the way,
was unique of its kind, for she always voted Uncle
Stephen " an old stick " — father said :
"What do you mean, Stephen?"
Then uncle told us about the horse-race, and Laura
clapped her hands and said: "How ripping!" But
father shook his head and said:
" It's very kind, Steve ; very kind. But no good
comes of . . . money like that"
And Uncle Stephen threw back his head and laughed.
84 ONE AFTER ANOTHEB
" Take it or leave it," he said.
Laura's eyes flashed. " I know I'm jolly well going
to take it," she exclaimed. " It means recitals, orches-
tral concerts, Berlin, Frankfort, Vienna — everything.
Everything! It makes all the difference to your
I could not escape a momentary and surprising vision
of Laura playing at an orchestral concert in Vienna
because " Baionnette " had pushed past the post in front
of another horse by the tip of his nose.
Of course, no one could prevent Laura taking the
money. She was of age. But neither of the brothers
appeared directly concerned with her. There was an
indecisive duel of the eyes. A brief fragmentary ar-
gument on betting between them.
" It's chance. It's all chanca Everything is
chance," said Uncle Stephen.
"No, no. There's honest dealing. There's fair
dealing. It's supply and demand."
" Isn't it often just chance who comes into your bar,
and what they spend ? "
" They come because they get good value."
" Isn't it chance that one man is bom a millionaire
and another a crossing-sweeper ? "
" No, no ; it's heredity."
" Who's going to say ? Isn't it a gamble on the Stock
Exchange? Isn't it often a fool who will make ten
thousand a year, and a clever man two hundred ? Back
your fancy, I say, and go in and win. If you lose, take
it like a sportsman."
Suddenly turning to me, he said:
"What do you say, Tom?"
I replied, " I think you're right, uncle."
It was an awful moment. I knew I was betraying
my father. I believed that he was right, and I believed
that Uncle Stephen was right But undoubtedly my
dominant feeling was personal ambition. I had been
an imsuccessful clerk in a wall-paper business for over
a year, and here was salvation. I wanted the money.
I wanted to escape. I wanted to marry Mary. I was
like Laura, only I had not my plan so definitely
mapped out. Suddenly I had an inspiration.
" After all, guv'nor/' I said, " horse-racing is recog-
nised by the State."
My father gave me a surprised look. I knew what he
was thinking, " Is the State the arbiter of my con-
science ? " but he said nothing. He fumbled his way
through the furniture and shrugged his shoulders, as
though he were casting us off. Stepmother followed him
indecisively. She was bewildered by the news. At
the same time she could not quite understand father's
attitude. One cannot reject a fortune so easily. She
was sorry for everybody, and anxious for a compromise
"Well, well, Stephen," she said in her tremulous
voice, " I'm sure it's very kind of you. The children
must be very grateful. Jim is tired. You must come
and talk it over again soon."
We all seemed to fall apart. Each of us was con-
sumed with the individual significance of the news.
Uncle Stephen was enjoying it most, for he knew that
we should accept. Laura had forgotten about us all,
even her benefactor. Her eyes were dancing with the
anticipation of a thousand nights of triumph. And I,
too, fell into a reverie of selfish delights.
I need hardly say that my thoughts had flown in-
stantly to Mary. I, too, forgot my benefactor. Within
the space of a few seconds my whole outlook on life
shifted on to a different plana I was going up and up.
All the black apprehensions of those previous years van-
86 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
ished. With Laura I had been to the Copley8^ I had
walked with Mary in the trim garden. I had sat
with her under the oedar*tree, and watched the son
setting on the Surrey hills. I had slept in a white-
panelled room with chintz curtains. I had spent days
amongst old furniture and good pictures, living with
people who moved softly and spoke in gentle voices.
And the realisation of the sordid contrast of my
father's bars had almost paralysed my will. This was
a different world entirely, and one I was not schooled
to. I began to understand Laura and her references
to the " filthy pub." What had appeared to me before
to be rich and wonderfully moving became suddenly
drab and depressing. It could never be the same again.
But my prospects of moving up into this more alluring
world seemed utterly remote. I would never dare to
make love to Mary, although she filled my waking
dreams. She was an intangible goddess sent to tor-
ment me. I was a clerk in a wall-paper firm, and my
father was a publican. My prospects were n^ligible.
I had not even ambition. I must put it all away.
And then suddenly ..." Baionnette '^ won by a nose !
If " Mohair " hadn't fallen — if one of the other horses
had made the slightest extra exertion ^ — everything
would be as it was. But now? Blindly I had
groped my way to Unde Stephen and pressed his
" That's all right, my boy," he saicLg. '^ Come over
on Sunday morning. We'll have a kn8ra:-up."
Laura and I were in revolt. We behaved disgust-
ingly. There was no quarrel with my father, no word
of recrimination. But within a month I had left " The
Duchess of Pless " and had gone to share a maisonnette
with Laura in Baker Street We spent two hundred
pounds on furnishing it. It was a kind of miniature
Copleys'. We went Copley-mad. We bought chintz
and cretonne^ and an oak gate-1^ table, and rush-seated
chairs. I threw up my situation in the wall-paper firm
and began to write a romantic drama. The whole thing
was like a dream. We entertained students, went to
theatres and picture-galleries, dined out at restaurants,
and made Woodstack, the Copleys' house, the focus of
all our activities.
As I raced along on that fateful night in the life of
Mary and myself, all these events danced before my
mind, dominated by the ridiculous spectacle of a horse
thrusting forward its nose. The child who was now
being bom probably owed its very existence to this
fortuitous circumstance. Uncle Stephen was right.
It is all chance. Every one of us is the plaything of a
long line of gamblers. The upsetting of a cup five
hundred years ago, a letter written in the Middle Ages,
the lucky thrust of a claw in primordial times, and lo !
you and I are bom. Father, who polished his brown
boots, and sold good beer, and sang hymns on Sunday
morning, believed in a God who ordered things reason-
ably, and he was quite wrong. Laura and I had found
him out, and our attitudes could never again be recon-
ciled. Not that we loved him the less, but we saw
him as he was. Fate ordained that we should go on
and leave him behind.
The tussle of Laura and me to live together lasted
nearly a year, and it ended disastrously. I cannot say
to what extent the change in me was due to the change
in my fortunes, but I do know that at that time — I
was twenty-three — I was suddenly conscious of a tre-
mendous psychological upheaval. I gained confidence
in myself. I began to think and act independently.
I was less shy in meeting peopla I "discovered"
88 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
writers who moved me profoundly. I became ambi-
tious. And my ambitions and outlook were constantly
clashing with Laura's. Laura, indeed, was impossible
to live with, She worried me to death. We agreed on
all main issues. We rejoiced in each other's society.
Indeed, we were very fond of each other. It was over
the little things that the trouble came.
She was always practising, and the maisonnette was
not large enough for me to escape from the sound of
her fiddle. The scales, and arpeggios, and repetitions,
and double-stoppings got on my nerves. I had to listen.
She was always upbraiding me for my untidy habits.
She was always losing her latchkey, or her muflf. She
was always bursting in on me to tell me the details of
some scandalous behaviour by some concert-manager.
As I stated before, there was always " something do-
ing " with Laura. I could not be in the same building
without being conscious of her. Her personality was
too pronounced to live with. Things that appeared to
me to be of no consequence at all would be enlarged by
her out of all proportion. At one moment she would
be laughing, and then some little incident would lash
her into a veritable fury. The most trivial thing would
upset her for a whole morning. She enjoyed a fair
measure of success in her profession, but the bitterness
of it tortured her. She had not a man's sense of fatal-
ism. She was always up in arms about something.
She quarrelled with managers and agents and conduc-
tors. Her life appeared one eternal protest By which
you must not imagine that she thought only of success.
She was developing into a very fine artist, and with a
woman's logic she could not understand why the whole
world did not instantly proclaim her as such. She had
no faculty for making the best of her difficulties in that
most difficult and corrupt of professions.
And I felt that I was no comfort to her. She re-
quired constant attention and encoiirag^nent. ^^ She
ought to get a husband," I thought, and then I shuddered
at the prospect. Laura was almost destined to make a
bloomer of it, to marry the wrong man. And I, too,
had my profession, and my ambitions, requiring con-
stant attention and encouragement, and instinctively I
turned to — Mary. A brother and sister can never do
anything more than run on parallel lines. They watch
each other racing along.
It was Mary who said to me :
" We shall have an awful business marrying Laura
to the right man. She's such a volcano."
Mary was the most sensible person in the world. She
was inevitable. I could think aloud in her presence,
and my thoughts became pruned up, crystal-clear, fluid.
When she was not with me I could almost talk with her.
Although I always knew the quality of her mind, her
statements always surprised me, as everything about
her had the faculty of surprising me. Identical ac-
tions had the eternal aspect of novelty. I would be
haunted by the tilt of her little chin, and when away
from her anxious to verify the impression. When I
saw her again the tilt would be the same, but it would
still be surprising and unexpected. Mary would be
as easy to live with as Laura had proved difficult.
That, I suppose, is why I took her away and made her
I had heard her groan. I had heard her scream.
Perhaps at that very moment she was . . . People were
pouring out of a theatre. A large coloured poster de-
picted a scene from " The Queen in Chancery."
Mountebanks in fustian. A fat man asked me for a
match. I gave him one, and stood there shivering.
" Thank you so much. Good night." How trivial it
all seemed. I could go back now. Time to go back.
I had walked all this way rapidly, just in time to give
90 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
that fool a match, and now I must go back. If he only
knew ! The god of chance again.
I dared not think of Mary. She held me by an mi-
breakable chain of episodes, necessities, passions. The
communion of a year, and she held me like that
Mending my socks, correcting my composition, select-
ing my ties, managing me, humouring me, surprising
me, shaping me.
A woman walked the streets furtively a few paces
ahead. She looked watchful but weary. A sudden
mad desire for companionship with a suffering creature
came over me. I overtook her and said :
"What a night! It's cold. Why don't you walk
quicker and keep warm ? "
She turned her lifeless face to me and answered :
" If I'd walked quicker you wouldn't have caught
" I'm no good to you. I only wanted to talk."
" What's your game ? Ain't you coming home with
" No. I can't. I'm worried. My wife's expecting
a baby. I've got to get back."
" You're a rum 'un, you are."
" She may die. I'm nearly off my head. Even now,
at this moment, she may . . ."
" That's nothing, kid. I run that risk every day."
I stopped and looked at her. Drawing out half-a-
sovereign, I handed it to her.
" Have a night off," I said. " You look tired. Just
to wish me ludc, do ! "
She looked at me suspiciously, and then thrust it
" I don't want yer money."
"All right," I said. "Good luck." And I hui-
ried on. In a minute or two she caught me up and
touched my arm.
"Here, kid," she said; "I've changed my mind.
Give me the half thick 'un."
I handed it to her in silence. She looked at it and
dropped it into her bag. Then she gave my elbovir a
little push, as though starting me on my journey, and
said in a lighter voice :
" That's all right, sonny. You're a good 'un. It's
all in the game. Good luck to yer, and the woman,
and the blinking kid ! "
And she vanished round a comer.
All in the game! One may do everything possible,
and fail. One may do nothing, and succeed. Had I
done anything to deserve a " blinking kid " ? It might
go on and produce other " blinking kids." In the course
of centuries I might be responsible for a whole race and
a thousand people, as I was linked to some dim figure
in the past, who was again linked to other dim figures.
On the other hand, I might die out, like the tail of
a comet hurtling through space. It was all in the
game. Was God a gambler, like Uncle Stephen? It
is not diflScult to breed, neither is it moral or immoral,
organised, essential, or scientific. It is just casual, a
chance. And yet the responsibility is unrealisable.
A consumptive potter with an intemperate wife may
have thirteen children. A Carlyle or a Shelley may
have none. A magnificent woman may remain celibate
till her death. One idle act may be the nucleus of
a race or it may be the means of death. Leonardo da
Vinci was probably the greatest man in all history: a
painter, sculptor, architect, musician, poet, engineer,
scientist, and philosopher — supreme at all these things
— and he was the illegitimate son of a peasant woman.
An accident! Tchaikovsky went mad. Heine was a
92 ONE AFTEE ANOTHEK
chronic invalid. Dostoievsky was an epileptic Shake-
speare's children were dunces. If there was a reasoned
order at the back of this breeding business, it eluded
me completely. The only happy people were people
like my father, who struck a circle round their lives
and walked within it. People who could stand four-
square to the winds of failure or success. Laura was
unhappy. Mary — Mary was probably dying, a vic-
tim to the mad freak that " Baionnette '' won by a
And I — I should not be able to go on. There
would be nowhere to pillow my thoughts; no guiding
star on the lonely waters. I should drift about in a
sea of melancholy amidst the uncharted isles of
despair. . . .
I passed a coffee-stall gleaming with copper and
white plates. Half a dozen indiscriminate specimens
of the flotsam of the big city were enjoying its hos-
pitality. I looked at my watch. It was just twelve,
and the house was round the comer. I would obey the
nurse. I would not return until twelve-fifteen. I went
up to the proprietor and ordered a cup of coffee. A
stout wonian was eating sardines on toast. A sickly-
looking youth was whispering into her ear. On the
other side an indescribably dirty old man, with blood-
shot eyes and a ferocious beard, was holding forth to
an individual whose face I could not see.
" I don't care what 'e is," he was exclaiming. " It
isn't honourabla 'E never done the right thing by
'er." (Mumbles from the other man.) " I don't care
about that. I don't think any more of a man because
'e wears gold sleeve-links and parts 'is 'air in the
middle. What's a 'undred a year — or even a thou-
sand a year — to a gal who can never be called respect-
able again i "
I wanted to say:
"You old prig! What does it matter, as long as
she lives, as long as the child lives? What about
Leonardo da Vinci ? "
I gulped my coffee, and fled. Dishonourable, dis-
honourable, dishonourable! What has honour got to
do with you, you old ruffian? Or me? Or with any
of the big tilings? My case was honourable enough,
as far as that went, but on that night I wouldn't have
cared, anyway. Life! The great thing is to live.
The great thing is for Mary to live. One can adjust
afterwards. It was all chance.
The house was lighted up. I dropped my latchkey
and fumbled against the door. It took me ages to
find it again. I could not hear a sound. Again I
pressed it in the lock and turned it. The light in the
hall blinded me. There was the strong smell of anti-
septic. My heart was beating rapidly. I groped my
way into the light. Someone tripped across the hall
with a case, and started, to go upstairs. She turned
when she saw me. It was Nurse Dipper.
"Tou needn't look so scared," she said. "Every-
thing is all right. TouVe got a dear little daughter."
My father came out of the drawing-room and held
out his hand to me.
THX BBOHXS STUDIO
NO one could poesibly work in a house where
there's a baby. In comparison, even Laura
would seem passive. A baby seems to be
labouring under some eternal injustice^ as though it
''I didn't want to come. But as you made me,
youVe damn well got to do exactly what I yell for."
When it is quiet it is even more insistent It is nec-
essary then to leave one's work, and tip-toe upstairs
and tap on the doc»-, and say :
" Nurse, is Midge all right ? " (Midge being a di-
minutive of Madeline.)
It might be choking, or having rickets, or dying in its
sleep. On my writing-desk is a book on InfantUe
Diseases and Cures. It is a terrible book. I never
thought that so much compressed peril could be got into
such a small space. It brings out beads of perspira-
tion on my temples. Work is out of the question. The
trouble is, I can get no one with whom to share these
nightmares. Mary has not read the book. I left it
about for her to read. I thought she ought to read it,
to be prepared. Once she picked it up and said :
She glanced through half a page, and said, "Rub-
Women are extraordinary. They have all sorts of
innate senses and intuitions we wot not of. Mary does
not seem to worry at all about Midge. She sings to it,
THE BECHER STUDIO W
makes funny noises^ does all the necessary things.
She overlooked me for some time. I hardly seemed to
count. Then one day she said :
" I think, dear, you ought to have a room out to work
in. This house is too small."
You must know that at that time I was a novelist.
That is to say, I had begun to write an intensely real-
istic modem novel, in the Kussian manner. It was
Mary's idea that I should write a novel, and my idea to
make it Bussian. I took some cockney characters and
made them talk for pages about their souls, like the
Brothers Karamazoff. It wasn't very good.
There followed what might be called the Midge
Period. For the first two years of our married life
it was all Midge. I did eventually have a room out,
but I was always darting home at unnecessary intervals,
worrying about Midge, worrying about Mary. At the
end of two years, Mary discovered that we were living
above our income. This was very alarming. It seemed
incredible that a huge sum like three hundred and fifty
pounds shouldn't be sufficient to supply our simple re-
quirements. It was obvious that I must abolish the
Brothers Karamazoff and seek remunerative work.
But this Mary would not listen to. She said :
" No. I know what it is. If you just go and take
on some clerical job you will go down the sink. But
if you hang on, trying to do something hig, you will
one day succeed."
One day! • . . We argued about it for weeks, and
then, of course, Mary had her way. I continued with
my room, and household expenses were cut down. But
I felt uncomfortable. I threw the Brothers Karam-
azoff overboard and started another novel in a lighter
key, and tried to write short stories.
At that time Laura had just returned from a suc-
cessful tour in the United States. She had made some
96 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
money, and was in very hl^ Bpirita. She came and
stayed with ns. She made me feel drab. She was so
vivid, forceftd. Her eyes were brighter than ever.
Success was stamped all over her. Ajad yet I was not
sure that success was doing her any good.
" She will never quite be Laura again/' I thought
In a hundred little ways she dazzl^ me, and disap-
pointed me. She was the big artist, conscious of her
furs, and name, and reckmie. Avid for praise, sensi-
tive to criticism, on the alert for any opinion concerning
herself, despising the unsuccessful. It was as though
applause was still ringing in her ears, and she was
hypnotised by it She jmid a kind of state visit to
" The Duchess of Pless,'' kissed my father passion-
ately, poured out the story of her triumphs into his
ear, but was too occupied to ask after his affairs. And
father beamed with pleasura
" Well, well, well ! '' he said. " Becoming famous
... eh? Fine! fine!"
We had tea in the parlour, as of old, but nothing
was said about the King of North Carolina or the King
of South Carolina. Laura had made crowds of new
friends, well-known conductors and artists, and wealthy
patrons. She was very full of it I watched her look-
ing round the stuffy little room, with its overcrowded
Victorian furniture, and the wax fruit, and " The
Death of Wolfe." She made no comment, but I could
tell by her eyes that she had the measure of it They
" Laura is cruel," I thought, and then
" No; she isn't cruel. She's hypnotised, that's all."
I discovered that I was right, the following evening.
Laura came into my room. She was a little unstrung.
THE BECHER STUDIO 97
She had been to a concert in the afternoon, and heard
Bcme big artist play Beethoven's E Flat Concerta Her
mind was barging about in all directions. I knew she
was in one of her difficult moods. She was tired, sorry
for herself, hungry for sympathy. She suddenly cried.
" What's the matter, old girl ? " I said.
" Oh, I don't know. I was thinking of dad, I think."
"Dad! Why? He's all right"
" You go and see him pretty often, don't you, Tom ? "
" Of course I do. Several times a week."
"While they were playing the slow movement, I
suddenly began thinking about — mother. I don't
think we've treated him very well, old boy; do you?
. . . Lonely. He must be lonely sometimes, don't you
think ? Such a long time ago. The years seem to make
barriers, don't they? One can't help him, quite like
that. I try and Ihink of him and mother when they
were young like we are. It's all so far away. How
beastly that we grow old and — get a sort of crust on."
" I think the guv'nor's quite happy, you know."
" Stepmother's a dear, but it can never be the same."
" I wasn't thinking of stepmother. I think he gets
a lot of pleasure out of — little things."
Laura dabbed her eyes, and pecked me on the cheek.
" I must go more often. I must try and go every
day. There's such a lot to do . . ."
Laura did indeed go the next evening, but she came
back in a bad temper. A week later she went off to
the South of France with a girl friend.
Mary visited my father regularly. She went at least
once a we^ She took him some patent pipe-cleaners,
gave him wrinkles about keeping the pewter bright,
found him a new cook, when the fourth after " the Zulu
pudding " had left, read to him when his eyes were bad,
and sent him photographs of " the Midge."
Scnnetimes he and stepmother would come and dine
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
98 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
with us at midday on Sunday. He was always very
jovial and gay. Afterwards Mary and I would leave
them alone in the drawing-room to have a nap, whilst
she and I took the Midge out in a pram«
" Poor old dears 1 '^ Mary would say, and I would
sigh in agreement.
The young are always pitying the old. It is for the
most part a quite unnecessary attention. The old do
not need it As a matter of fact, when the young say
and feel these things it is too often disguised pity for
themselves, a too vivid anticipation. They do not re-
alise that the '^ crust " is only a mantle of adjustment
Those were golden days. Life seemed too crowded to
do anything with. My hands were full of the precious
stuff, and I could do nothing but idly watch the drift
of it through my fingers. We made several friends, and
indulged in the usual social suburban diversions. We
spent week-ends at Woodstack, went for short excursions,
visited the picture^alleries, and looked in the shops.
But we could never be away for long. There was the
evening ceremony of bathing the Midge, an affair con-
ducted with all the preparation and pomp of a Eoman
If we went to a theatre it was necessary to creep into
her room on our return and watch Madeline asleep. It
is a curious thing that she was always Madeline to me
when she was asleep, and the Midge when she was awake.
Mary always kissed her downy skull, but she could do
this without waking her up. For my part, I found it
suflScient to hold my face very close to hers and smell
her. She had a wonderful tickly smell that made 0!»e
want to laugh. Mary said it was disgusting the way
I did this — like an animal. My defence was that at
present we really had nothing more in common than our
animal instincts. I hadn't observed any particular
spiritual advance on Madeline's part. In reply to which
THE BECHER STUDIO 99
Mary naturally told me not to be an idiot^ and to turn
off the light in the hall.
My short stories were all returned from magazine'
editors with the little printed slip of regrets. The
novel in the lighter key made but desultory progress.
One day I took Mary to task about it. I said :
"Look here, darling; I don't believe it's any good.
Fm nearly twenty-six, and I've done absolutely nothing.
I'm interested in all this stuff, but it doesn't come off.
I shall have to chuck it and try something else."
Mary puckered her brow, and thought for some
seconds. Then she said:
" Well, I don't care what you do, darling. Only I
won't have you taking on a job just for the sake of a
job. It must be something which leads somewhere. It
must have ambition at the back of it."
I kissed her with fervour. I was enormously re-
lieved* I felt myself tingling with ambition.
I know quite well that at that time, if I had not been
married to Mary, I should have gone and assisted my
father at " The Duchess of Pless." And I think he
would have liked to have me. He was becoming a little
less brisk in his movements, and the days tired him.
But I knew that to be a glorified potman would be un-
worthy of Mary. It led nowhera Only, perhaps, to
freedom and good-fellowship. . . . Queer, what a hold
the atmosphere of that place had over me. I did not
drink, myself, except occasionally a glass of port. But
I liked to watch the people who came there, and listen
to their talk. It was a kind of clearing-house of charac-
ter. Very often in the evening, when we entertained
intimate friends, I would give an imitation of Mr.
Timble discoursing on the decadence of funeral etiquette,
d by Google
100 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
or old Ifrs. Still analysing her sequence of husbands.
I did not tell our guests that these were actual people
who were themselves the guests of my father. I was
still too much of a snob. I presented them as imag-
inary types. Our friends seemed to find them diverting.
Uncle Stephen said that if I got a little more " biff-bi£F "
into them, they would be worth doing in public This
led to a discussion about going on the stage. Then
visions of long tours away from Mary and Midge finally
dissipated the idea. I was no further on. While Mary
and I were discussing the ever-present subject one even-
ing, our little ant-heap was disturbed by a bomb-shell
from Laura. It arrived in the form of a long tel^ram
from Edinburgh, announcing the fact that she was en-
gaged to Edgar Beyfus, the concert agent and im-
"My God! it's the wrong man, of course! " I ex-
" How do you know ? '' said Mary.
" I feel it in my bones.''
" Don't be an ass. He may be quite all right. Do
you know anything about him ? "
" Never heard of the juggins. But why so sudden t
Why an impresario ? An impresario suggests someone
to help her career, don't you see ? Damn her career ! "
" Tom, don't be so stupidly unreasonable."
" Well, can't you see it ? He'll be a fat, influential
Jew, with pots of money, who can pull the strings of
concert-work all over Europe. Ton see if I'm not
" I'm sure you're wrong. Laura's no fool. She'd
never marry a man she didn't love."
" Wouldn't she ! With Laura it's the career fibret, and
love — also ran."
" You're mean and unkind, and I hate you."
I soon put that right; then I snatched my hat and
THE BECHER STUDIO 101
went out. Laura, Laura, Laura! How awful! I
could have wept. Laura never ought to marry. She
was one of those people foredoomed to tragedy. I was
convinced that this man was the wrong one. I walked
up to Hampstead Heath, visualising him and cursing
him. I thought no more about my career.
We heard no more from Laura for eight days. She
never wrote letters if there was a tel^raph-office handy.
On the eighth day we received another telegram to say
that she was back in London and that she was bringing
him to see us that evening.
Edgar Beyfus was not at all like I had imagined.
He was young, tall, rather good-looking, not a Jew. He
had dark eyes, a dark moustache, and a pleasant smile.
He was well-dressed but not over-dressed ; and his man-
ners were irreproachable. He always said the right
thing, and he was very friendly to us. I was immensely
relieved. We sat in our little drawing-room and talked
till nearly twelve o'clock. It was a love-affair all right.
One had only to note the way they kept looking at each
other. Laura seemed quite different. She was gentler
and more pliable. Her eyes swam in a mist of dreams.
She hardly spoke about her career. She was tenderness
itself. She asked after all our doings. I had never
known her so sympathetic She went upstairs with
Mary to see the baby. When she came down, her eyes
" Isn't she a darling 1 " she said. " I kissed her on
the ear, and it made me feel all cosy inside."
Then Edgar had to go up, and he expressed the sensa-
tion of feeling " all cosy inside." He admired our
furniture, and the arrangement of the little rooms. He
was perfectly charming.
" Thank God! Thank God! " I kept on thinking to
myself. "He's all right He's quite a success. I
shall like him."
102 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
When they went, I walked with them to the end of
the road. We were all very merry. We fixed an ap-
pointment for the following week. Laura kisaed me,
" Good-bye, dear old boy.'*
It was an unusual endearment. When I got back, I
found Mary kneeling in front of the fire, and looking
" Well ? '' I said. " That's all right, isn't it 1 "
She did not answer, and I repeated :
Without looking at me, she said:
" You were right, Tom."
" What do you mean ? "
" He's the wrong man ! "
Women are incredibla
The following week I began my career as a scene-
painter. It came about through meeting a young man
called Duncan Brice, at a friend's house. He was a
jolly, rotund little person, and he told me he was work-
ing at the Becher Studios. The Becher Studios turned
out to be a large scene-painting emporium in Padding-
ton. He invited me to go and inspect them. The place
immediately fascinated me. When I beheld an enor-
mous woodlands glade all wet with size, I suddenly
" Here is my job in life."
I had always had a certain aptitude for drawing, but
never suflSciently pronounced to encourage me to give
up everything to be a painter. But this was a pro-
fession of its own. I liked the smell of size, and the
little scale models, and men in white blouses up on a
scaffolding, splashing away with enormous brushes, the
THE BECHEE STUDIO 108
crude colours that looked so well a little way off, the
sense of the theatre. I was introduced to Mr. Julius
Becher himself, a large, genial man with the stump of a
cigarette lost in his beard.
I reported the matter to Mary, and then I wrote to
him. The end of it was, he agreed to let me go and
work there. For the first six months I was to receive
no salary, and at the end of that time he said he " would
I had not been so keen on anything for a long time.
The prospect seemed to hold out the joy of painting with-
out demanding that intense concentration and subtlety
which I had not got, and the joy of the theatre without
its nerve-strain and late hours. They were a most con-
genial company. Mr. Becher used to drink enormous
quantities of beer. He kept a barrel in the corner of
the studio, and the beer was supplied free to the staff.
He had a great sense of solemn fun. He never smiled,
but the men called him " uncle " and were always rag-
ging him good-humouredly. He had a huge and power-
ful voice, and he wjis always striking ridiculous attitudes
and declaiming fake Shakespeare. There was a small
boy whom he called " Launcelot Qobbo," whose duty it
was to keep his chief constantly supplied with liquid
refreshment. He would suddenly stand up and mop
his brow and exclaim :
"Boy! • . . Wassail!"
Launcelot Gobbo would immediately rush and fill a
large pewter tankard with beer, and bring it to hinu
Then a conversation like this would follow :
" Ah ! what is this leprous distilment ? "
" Beer, my lord."
"Beer! Devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced
loon ! Didn't I tell thee to bring sack ? "
" Sorry, sir."
"Bah I Let me taste the pgison. (Drinks it at a
104 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
gulp and points tragically at the door.) Gto to! Get
thee to a nxinnery I ''
There was one man called Snayle, a cockney, with a
wonderful falsetto voice. In our lunch-hour he would
give extremely funny imitations of an Italian prima
donna, with all the gestures and manners and tricks of
the voice. Although for a long time I was not allowed
to do anything but size canvases and mix buckets of
colour, I foimd this life most interesting. Duncan
Brice initiated me into a lot of the mysteries of the
underside of life in the West End of London. It was
a subject upon which he was no mean authority. He
was an extremely clever draughtsman. If Mr. Becher
left the studio for a few minutes, he would nip across
the room and make a rough charcoal sketch of a nude
woman right in the middle of a forest glade that the chief
was working on. There would be a ringed sentence
coming from her mouth : " Hullo, Unde ! What are
you doing to-night ? '' When Mr. Becher returned the
whcde studio would watch him furtively. He would ob-
serve the drawing critically, with his head on one side.
Then he would suddenly bawl out :
" Oh, my lights, and liver, and lungs ! Oh, my lungs,
and liver, and lights ! ''
Then he would pick up a straight-edge, and chase
Duncan all over the room. Punishment having been
inflicted, he would return, panting, and call out :
"Boy! . . . Wassail!"
It was surely the most disorderly and free-and-easy
place of business that ever existed. Nevertheless, be-
neath it all, excellent work was accomplished. Julius
Becher was considered one of the best scene-painters,
with an absolute genius 'for the mechanical part He
took a lot of trouble with me, and at the end of six
months he said that I could " tell mv mamma that I had
THE BEOHER STUDIO 106
been a good boy, and that he proposed to pay me fifteen
shillings a week."
This was precisely the salary that I had enjoyed dur-
ing my brief period as a clerk in the wall-paper firm.
But what a difference ! As Mary said — that led no-
where. But here I might one day become a force in the
theatrical world. Like Mr. Becher I might hobnob with
actor-managers and become a member of the Garrick
Club. I might revolutionise stage-production. I was
in a living movement.
Mary would never explain to me why she thought
Laura had engaged herself to the wrong man. She was
mysterious and obstinate about it, and I convinced my-
self that she was quite wrong. We did not see much of
Laura for some time. She got an important engage-
ment at the Gewandhaus at Leipsig, and went on a re-
cital tour in Germany. When she returned she gave a
recital at the St. James's Hall. I had not heard her
play for a long time, and I was amazed at her improve-
ment. She had often been accused by the critics of a
certain restlessness and uncertainty of rhythm, but on
this occasion she appeared to be a complete master of
her moods. Edgar had given her a present of a Guar-
nerius, but this alone could not account for the increased
richness of tone, the fine balance and breadth. I sat
there and watched her frowning over the bow. She was
dressed in black velvet, with a long chain of cornelians
hanging to her waist. I felt proud, and a little jealous,
and watchful, and mystified. Laura seemed far away
from me, a goddess on Parnassus, conununing with
spirits too removed for me % understand. Msenads were
dancing in star-like glades, the jagged profile of bare
rocks rose up against the night sky, a woman was weep-
106 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
ing • . . you could not know her story. The night was
too bewilderingly beautiful. Tears and rapture, pity
and passion, were they not all akin in these dark folds
of colour and movement ?
By the door Edgar Beyfus was standing. His eyes
did not leave her face. Yes, of course, Mary was quite
wrong. A good chap, Edgar. I could feel it in Laura's
playing. She had found the golden key. She was no
longer a girl pushing towards success. She was an
artist communing. You cannot accomplish anything
until you love. For love implies suffering. You can-
not be big until you love and suffer — horribly.
In the artists' room afterwards I was ihe uninten-
tional witness of a little incident which is always vividly
impressed on my mind. There was a small room lead-
ing out of a larger. I hurried into the larger ro<»n to
look for Laura. As I could not see her, I peeped into
the smaller, just in time to see Laura kiss her fiance.
There were no half-measures about Laura. She seemed
to be crying; then, as he entered the room ahead of me,
she give a little croon and, flinging her arms round
him, she pressed her lips to his, and held him. It was
a volcanic kiss, overwhelming.
We all went to supper at Fagani's. There was the
usual gay reaction from the nervous strain of recital-
giving. Edgar ordered champagne. I have never
known Laura in such a merry mood. We all laughed
and chatted inconsequentially.
" Did I play well ? Did you like my frock ? Who
was" there ? Weren't they a ripping audience ? "
Laura darted at each of us. Mary and I both said
we had never heard her play so welL Edgar said he
never thought that even a Guamerius could soiSKd so
glorious. Mary said her frock looked perfect. Laura
ate a large quantity of macaroni and drank a consider-
able amoimt of champagne. Then she began again to
THE BECHER STUDIO 107
talk excitedly of her career. She was going back to
Germany in the spring; and there was a scheme afoot
for visiting Bussia.
Edgar smiled, and said, '^What other plans have
She looked at him, and laughed.
" Oh, you ! *' she said. " I know what you want.
. . . You'll have to wait your chance."
And she crowned him with a sprig of parsley.
" Mary," I said, when we got home, " I'm annoyed
with you. Why do you still persist in believing Aat
Edgar is the wrong man ? I think he's a ripping chap.
I'm perfectly convinced that they are desperately in
lov& I happened to see something. He wouldn't have
given her that Guamerius unless "
Mary stifled a yawn, and shook her head.
" Damn it 1 " I said. " Do you still insist that
Edgar's a mistake? "
" I'm more sure of it than ever," she answered, and
b^an to undress.
Women . • • But there! . • «
SUNDAY night in "the dissecting-room." Giles
called it the dissecting-room, because he said that
Mary and her girl friends used to meet there and
dissect each other^s characters. It had probably been
designed as a billiard-room. It was a lofty, bungalow
kind of place, built on to Mxs. Copley's house; rather
scratchily furnished with wicker chairs and ottomans,
and an upright piano. It had always been consecrated
to Giles and Mary, and their friends. It had a door
leading on to the garden. The walls were brown wains-
coting with a dark green canvas stretched above. I
never liked this room. To-night, as I lay back on the
ottoman, smoking, it filled me with an unaccountable
sense of melancholy, and something worse . . • gusto
picaresco. It was a good scene, though — a painter's
effect. The faces clear-cut beneath the lamps, the room
above lost in mystery, trails of blue tobacco-smoke
drifting hither and thither. Why was I in such a
silly mood? What was this dead-weight, like a pre-
monition of evil? At the other end of the ottoman
were Mary and a girl called Agnes Winter, giggling
and listening to Radio, who was leaning forward and
talking earnestly. In the centre of the room, close
under the lamp, sat Mrs. Copley, stitching away at a
piece of maroon-coloured embroidery. Her gentle face
THE DISSECTING-ROOM 109
appeared concentrated on her work. She was not lis-
tening to Eadic. In the further comer Giles and
Angus sat facing each other over a chess-board, the
board being supported by some mysterious piece of
furniture covered with a blue-and-red check cloth.
I sat watching Radio, and only partially listening to
him,. He was vehement, as usual, and talking about
"the good European." His small black tousled head
kept thrusting forward like a ram, and he held one
finger up and then flopped it down heavily on his leg
and fumbled about with his knees. His queer trans-
parent eyes flashed hither and thither, and his mouth
broke into supercilious sneers. " Oh, yes, I believe
you. . . . Men go into politics sincere, and in five min-
utes they are drinking tea with duchesses." — Mary
thought this was very funny. — " An artist can be sin-
cere, yes. Indeed, he is the only one, for he is alone.
One man alone can be sincere. Two together can be
sincere. Three go to pieces, and more than that, eat
each other up. . . . When a man loses his will-to-
express-regardless-of-all-consequences he loses every-
thing. He becomes a debtor. What is it the politician
says? 'I owe something to my party. I owe some-
thing to my constituents.' You see, he is already bar-
gaining with his conscience. He is already compro-
mising. Soon he becomes a beggar, yes, then a slave."
" Toll me, Radio, what do you mean by two people
being sincere ? "
" A man and a woman, yes . . . occasionally, when
they love or when they . . . passion is always sincere.
The good European destroys sincerity with his Royal
Academy pictures and his temples of pity. He is like
a dog running round in circles, trying to bite his own
"What should he do, then? Run after other dogB
and bite their tails ? "
110 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
"Yes . . . preferably. If he values his tyi)e, he
must think of himself"
How tiring Radio could be at times with his stale
Nietzsche! And yet, of course, there was something
in it. Perhaps we worried too much about each other.
. . . What does Mrs. Copley look up like that for, as
though she were listening? A dog barked somewhere
at the front of the house. The electric bell rang. An-
other visitor. Well, why should I be agitated? All
sorts of people drop into the Copleys' on a Sunday
A few moments drift by, during which one of the
chess-players says, " Dash it 1 I didn't see that," and
then comes the click of the dissecting-room door.
The door opens, and two girls with drawn, white faces
enter the room. One is Daisy Weir and the other
Eleanor Bowater. Curiously enough, they both glance
at me first. I seem to expect this, and I jump up and
go to them. Everyone is conscious of the sudden in-
trusion, like the rustle of the skirts of a tragedy. We
* seem to converge into a group under the lamp, every-
one except the chess-players, who have looked up, but
have not stirred. In spite of my anxiety I am pecul-
iarly conscious of every little thing in the room.
Eleanor reaches me first, and puts her hand on my
" It's all right . . . something awfully queer. Not
really serious. . . ."
" What do you mean ? "
" Laura. She burnt her violin this afternoon, at the
Queen's Hall, during the concert."
"Burnt her violin 1"
"I'm afraid it's awfully queer. But don't worry,
" Sit down, both of you."
It was Mary's hand which pulled me down on to the
THE DISSECTING-ROOM 111
ottoman. Giles oomes striding across the room, ex-
" Good God ! Not the Guamerius ! "
The two girls looked from one to another; then
" Yon know it was the Harmonic Society concert
this afternoon. Lanra was playing the Vieuxtemps
concerta Sir Arthur Jeeves was conducting. She
looked quite all right when she came on. She played
gloriously. The whole thing went perfectly till she
came to the slow movement. I don't know how it was,
but both Daisy and I seemed to detect some change in
her. She seemed nervous, abstracted. Once she nearly
foi^ot to come in at the right moment. But she got
through all right. At the end of the movement she
peered into the audience with a queer look, and put her
hand to her head. Sir Arthur began to tap with his
baton, preparatory to the last movement, when she sud-
denly turned and walked deliberately off the platform.
"He looked rather surprised. Everyone imagined
that something had gone wrong with her fiddle, although
she certainly did not break a string. Sir Arthur waited,
and spoke a few words to the leader. People began to
whisper. The minutes went by. At last he walked
off. He was absent nearly ten minutes. Daisy and I
began to get into an awful state. At length he returned.
He announced quite calmly that, owing to a sudden in-
disposition, Miss Purbeck would not be able to continue
the concerto. The orchestra would play the next item.
Of course Daisy and I rushed out and went to the back.
We found her kneeling on the floor in the artists' room,
staring at the fire. Mr. Loeb, the agent, was walking
up and down the room, ejaculating: ^My God! My
God ! ' * What is it ? ' I said. He pointed towards
the fireplace. On th^ fender were the relics of a burnt
fiddla There was nothing left but a piece of the
112 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
charred neck and the scroll with some gut still dangling.
* Laura/ I said, ^ what has happened ? ' and I tried to
kiss her. She thrust us both away. All she said was,
^ I had to do it.' Mr. Loeb waved his arms in despair.
' She has destroyed it,' he said, ^ of her own free will.'
^ No, no,' said Daisy ; ' it must have been an accident.
It was an accident, wasn't it, Laura ? ' She only shook
her head, and Mr. Loeb continued, ^ She has destroyed
the Ouamerius. She has destroyed her career.' "
When I heard Eleanor say this I gave a cry.
" Where is she? " I said. " I must go to her."
" There isn't another train up to town to-night," she
answered. "And we don't know where she is. But
I'm sure she's all right, Tom. She wasn't crying;
nothing like that. She looked flushed, excited —
peculiar, not really distressed. I think she must have
been working too hard — a sudden nervous breakdown."
Daisy took up the narrative.
" There was an awful confusion, of course. Other
people came round. Septimus Coyne was there. You
know he is a tremendous admirer of Laura's."
" But where was Edgar ? " I asked.
"I saw him once at the back of the hall. But he
never came round when all this happened."
" He never came round 1 "
"Na As a matter of fact, Eleanor and I went
round to try and find him. When we got back Laura
had gone. The commissionaire said she had driven
away alone in a cab. We thought she might be com-
ing down here. We left Septimus still poking about.
He will be down by the last train."
She stopped, and we all. looked at each other. The
matter seemed inexplicable. There was nothing to be
THE DISSECTING-ROOM 118
said. We all wanted to know, and to question, and we
did not know where to begin. Mrs. Copley's calm
voice broke in:
" Was the instrument insured, darling? '^
The comparative unimportance of this query cast a
spell of relief. Giles, vigorously massaging his temples,
" Even if it were, mum, no company would pay up
for a thing wilfully destroyed/'
" What could have been the idea ? "
" Laura said nothing more ? You could get nothing
more out of her ? "
" No. Of course we meant to when we got back, but
she'd gone. A lot of people began to collect, hall-
managers and people. The concert wasn't over. The
commissionaire said she went off in a great hurry.
She had a violin-case with her."
" She had a violin-case with her 1 That's rum," said
The room began to feel oppressive. I groped my
way towards the door.
" Where are you going, dear ? " said Mary.
" I must get up to London somehow. I must find
her. I will walk up."
"My dear boy," said Eleanor; "it's twenty-two
miles, and the night is dark and wet. You wouldn't
know where to look when you got there. She may be
down by the last train."
Mary pulled me back into the room.
" I'm sure it's all right," she said. I was conscious
of them all looking at me. I felt that I ought to hold
the master-key to this mystery — that I was in some
peculiar way responsible. I felt ashamed, confused,
distraught. I wdked over to the chess-board, and pre-
tended to observe the position of the game. The two
players returned and resumed their seats. We all three
114 ONE AFTER ANOTHEE
stared at the ridiculous little men with unseeing eyes.
The girls were whispering in the opposite comer. Mrs.
Copley walked out of the room. Angus offered me a
cigarette and I lighted it without thanking him. I
heard Badic launching forth into a new tirade. I
caught the phrase : '^ To be any good at all, art must
The two boys continued their game in silence. Then
Giles, who had the game well in hand, made a pre-
posterous mistake. He flushed angrily and exclaimed :
^' Oh, what's the good ? " Then he turned to me and
" I don't see why it should ruin her career — just a
I did not answer him, and he called out:
"Eleanor, who was there ? Was the hall full ? "
Eleanor came over, and spoke quietly.
" There were no critics. Sunday, you know. But
the hall was packed. There would almost sure to be
some newspaper people. In fact, Daisy says she saw
old Threlf all of the Daily Quest — taking a 'busman's
holiday, probably. Sir Artiiur Jeeves seemed to take
it quite calmly. Of course I don't know what tran-
spired between him and Laura."
" Septimus ought to be here by now.*'
Mrs. Copley came into the room, followed by a maid
with a tea-tray. While she was putting it down, the
bell went. Mary shot from the room like an arrow
from a bow. The rest of us stood watching the door.
The maid was fussing with the tray and whispering to
Mrs. Copley, who replied, as though it was a matter
of great importance:
" Yes, some of the Qaribaldi biscuits, Ma^a"
There was an interminable wait ; then Coyne entered
the room in his overcoat, followed by Mary. No
Laura. Coyne looked tired and oily, as though he had
THE DISSECTING-ROOM 115
been greasing his hair and then wiping his hands on
his pale face. A slight expression of importance crept
over his countenance as he looked round at us^ like that
of a successful performer about to play his own c(»n-
It took a long time to get rid of the maid, and then
they made him take off his overcoat.
" It's awfully queer," was all he would say for a
" Did you see her again ? ''
" No. I never saw her at all, except on the platform.
I saw Beyfus at the back and I saw him go out of the
hall when Laura went off after the slow movement.'*
" What could you tell from his face ? " «
"Didn't he look scared?"
"I didn't notice anything special. He was just
standing there looking calm, and he walked out."
"Did you find out whether he went round to the
artists' room? "
" Yes. He didn't go there."
" What are your ideas ? Why do you think she did
" Well, it looks to me as though there had been some
sort of nmipus. You know what Laura is. He must
have done something. • . . She wanted to show that
she had finished with him. It was he who had given
her the Quarnerius. They say he paid seven hundred
and fifty for it. It was her way of showing him that
she'd done with him."
" But why, in God's name, do it in the middle of a
concert? It's cutting off her nose to spite her face."
"You know what Laura is. She's impulsive. She
saw him there in the hall, watching her. It was a
116 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
sudden mood. She couldn't stand it any longer.
Something to do with the mood of the music, probably,
alsa Laura's an artist. She wouldn't think about the
Radio suddenly clapped his hands and exclaimed,
"Braval brava! Why should she? . . . Unbridled,
eh? What did I say? To hell with the publicans! "
" Publicans " was unfortunate, but Eadic meant well.
Then Mary interjected :
"But you say he went out of the hall when Laura
walked off. In that case he wouldn't know that she had
burnt the fiddle."
" I saw him go out, but I don't know where he went
to. He may have come back again through another
door, or have gone to another part of the hall, or have
been watching outside. I did not leave the hall till
Jeeves had made the announcement. I darted about
outside to try and find Beyfus. When I went round
to the back Laura had gone. The commissionaire told
me that a cab had been waiting for her for half an hour,
and that she took away quite a lot of things, including a
violin-case, a trunk, and the charred remnants of the
" That's queer," remarked Giles. " That looks more
like premeditation than impulse."
The maid re-entered with the Garibaldi biscuits, and
we sat solemnly, considering the problem. "The only
thing that's quite clear," I thought, " is that as a
prophet I was right and Mary was wrong, but when it
came to intuition she was right and I was wrong.
Edgar Beyfus must be the wrong man. It's all to do
with hiuL Good God, poor Laura 1 I hope she won't
do anything mad "
" Of course," continued Septimus, " after the show
I hung about and tried to pick up what I could, but I
couldn't get hold of anything very useful. Everyone
THE DISSECTING-EOOM 117
was asking questions and no one was answering them.
There were some newspaper people there, I don^t mind
telling you. Jeeves was surrounded, but not very com-
municative. He had had a great success with the
Dvorak at the end, and I think he'd forgotten about
Laura. I heard him say, * Oh, yes, very unfortunate,
very regrettable. I can tell you nothing mora' And
Loeb was tearing his hair. * How I have worked for
that girl ! ' he was saying. ^ For ten years I have
worked and slaved, and she throws it all away in five
minutes.' As a matter of fact, it was he who was the
fool. He completely lost his head.^ If he had kept
quiet the thing need never have come out. Jeeves told
nothing except the indisposition yarn, but Loeb was
blurting out the whole story. Of course he hates Bey-
fus. Laura has been with Loeb all these years, and
now she goes and gets engaged to Beyfus, which means
that in future Beyfus will be her agent, and husband,
and everything else."
" Do you think that possibly " began Daisy, with
distended eyes. Then she stopped and remarked sen-
tentiously, " Of course, there are always wheels within
Giles turned to Angus and said :
" Colum, you've been in the musical profession years
— what do you know of Loeb? . . . and what is
thought of Beyfus? — in the profession, I mean, of
course, as an impresario ? "
Angus thrust forward and, speaking in his lazy voice,
" Oh, I don't know. Loeb is an old Jew. I've al-
ways heard that he's pretty straight — a sound man,
not very pushing."
"Yes. And Beyfus?"
Angus grinned round at the company apolc^etically,
and shru^ed his shoulders.
118 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
^^Oh, I don't know. It's just what one hears. I
have heard that Beyfus is just the opposite."
I turned to him sharply, and said:
"You mean to say that you've heard that Edgar
Beyfus is young, not straight, not sound, but very
pushing ? "
Angus wriggled uncomfortably, and murmured :
" Oh, it's just what one hears. There may be noth-
ing in it."
Then a dramatic turn was given to events. The
maid again entered the room, and said:
"Someone wishes to speak to Mr. Purbeck on the
I dashed out into the hall, and Mary followed me.
I snatched up the receiver and cried " Hullo ! "
There was no sound but the hum of the wires. I kept
on repeating " Hullo ! Hullo 1 " At length a voice
"Is that you, Tom?"
It was Laura's voice.
" Yes, yes. Is that you, Laura ? "
"Don't be excited, old boy. I just wanted to tell
you, you are not to worry about anything you hear about
to-night. I am quite all right."
" But, Laura, Laura "
"Hush! It's been all very difficult. Don't be-
lieve anything you hear or read. I'll write to you
in a day or two. Qood night, dear, and my love to
" But, Laura, why did you . . . Laura, Laura ! are
you there ? Hell I Laura ! Laura ! " There was no
sound but the low drone of the wires.
Mary caught my arm and kissed me.
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
THE DISSECTING-ROOM 119
As we went back into the dissecting-room, Oiles was
" The more I hear about it, the more convinced I am
that Laura has been used as a pawn in some game be-
tween Loeb and Beyfus. Loeb may have been acting.
Of course, if she is going to Beyfus he won't care if
her career is ruined. On the other hand . • , Hullo I
any newsr? "
'^ Laura telephoned to say she's all right. That's
all. Nothing else."
" Where did she telephone from ? "
" I don't know. She rang ofE suddenly, or we were
cut off. Perhaps she'll ring up again."
Badic was shaking his finger at Eleanor.
"Everyone is your enemy . . . don't forget that.
You only reach perfection through a process of de-
struction. Steel through the furnace, eh? Creation
through suffering. . . . What do these chess-players
say? ' Oh, dash it! I didn't see that! ' ... To be
a good chessrplayer, or a big artist, you must see more
than the other fellow, eh ? "
Giles threw another log on to the fire, and muttered :
" There's nothing more we can do."
I suddenly thought of father. Probably at that mo-
ment he was serving drinks across the bar at " The
Duchess of Pless," talking to Mr. Timble, or upholding
the dignity of his house. " Silence, gentlemen ! "
Father — he would never be able to understand it,
whatever the solution. To-morrow he would probably
read about it in the newspapers : " Sensational Inci-
dent at the Queen's Hall. Violinist Destroys her Vior
lin." An immoral act. A flagrantly inmioral act
Whether she wanted the violin or not, she destroyed a
120 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
beautiful thing that could not be replaced. She might
have given it away, or given it back to him. But
that, of course, would not be like Laura. She would
act abruptly, and think afterwards. Her voice had
sounded unruffled, though, as though she was not un-
happy. It was kind of her to ring up. We were " not
to worry." That meant that she was not going to —
do anything rash. I had been frightened of this. I
always felt that Laura might do anything. Our mother
was Spanish. ... I wish I had known more about
our mother. Doubtless in her life she had — done
precipitate things, and thought afterwards. I began
dreaming of that romantic country, with its dark pas-
sions and slumbering tragedies.
Giles got out a pack of cards and began to play
patience feverishly. We were all silent, when suddenly
Radic came out with a most amazing suggestion. Rock-
ing on his haunches on the ottoman, he said :
" You say. Miss Weir, that there was nothing left
of the violin but the charred scroll, eh ? "
" Yes, the scroll and a piece of the neck, with some
strings dangling. Just a wreck."
''How do you know, then, that it was the Ouar-
We sat there contemplating this remarkable insinua-
tion. I think we all took it in different ways.
Then I turned to him and. said :
"What on earth do you mean, Radic? Do you
think Laura would lie about it ? "
" I haven't heard yet that Laura said that it was the
Guamerius. All she said was ^ she had to do it' "
" But, surely, you ^"
" Listen, old boy. I would not believe Laura capable
of any deception, no. But there are too many ^leva-
Hers d'industrie in this. All these professions where
success is the first consideration . . ."
THE DISSECTING-ROOM 121
" But what possible good can it do, if it ruins her
career ? "
" It may ruin her career, or it may make her career.
Se non e vero, e hen trovato. It all depends on how
the situation is — what you call it? — handled. One
may try to ruin and the other to make. Two nice men,
" But, in that case, Laura would have been a party to
it. I refuse to believe ^^
My mind went whirling round and round. I seemed
to hear Kadic talking a long way off above the crackling
of the logs :
" There is always the pull that way. A little more
and one is over the edge before one knows it. There is
a first cause, and then the story is complicated by things
outside. The chevalier dHndustrie . . . capable of
anything. . . . Oh, yes, believe me ... I know him
— this good European ^'
THB GUBAir ASSASSm
ONLY two of the momiiig papers had any men-
tion of the incident, but the afternoon papers
came out with flaming headlines and with
Laura's portrait The popular headline was, "Rc^-
markable Incident at the Queen's Hall. Well-known
Lady Violinist Destroys a Thousand-guinea Violin."
Some hinted that Miss Laura Purbeck had had an acci-
dent, others that she had had a sudden mental aberra-
tion, due to a nervous breakdown. They all agreed
that the matter was a mystery, and had not yet been
cleared up. It was disclosed that she had left on the
midnight train for Manchester, where she was to play
on Tuesday afternoon. Sir Arthur Jeeves was reputed
to have said that '^he was not quite clear what had
happened. Miss Purbeck seemed completely unstrung
when he entered the artists' room. He only had a few
words with her. From her manner he felt convinced
she would not be able to continue, although she could
easily have obtained another violin. Indeed, she had
another one with her. He could not keep the public
waiting. When the concert was over, she had gone."
On Tuesday nearly every paper in England seemed
to have Laura's portrait, with a long article about her,
and an interview quoted from the representative of a
news-agency who had run her to earth in a Manchester
hotel. It was headed, "Miss Purbeck's Remarkable
Story," and it ran somewhat as follows :
^' 122 -
THE CUBAN ASSASSIN 128
" Our representative, who found Miss Pnrbeck con-
siderably recovered from the nervous strain of her ex-
perience at the Queen's Hall, was told a strange and
romantic story. She appeared quite willing, indeed
anxious, to relieve herself of an oppressive burden and
to offer explanations and apologies for the unfortunate
contretemps of Sunday evening. We will quote her
own words : ' The Gnamerius was given me by my
ficmce, Mr. Edgar Beyfus, on the 27th of last month.
It was, as yon know, a beautiful instrument and quite
historic I first played on it in public on the 10th of
this month, at Bath, and there was no untoward inci-
dent. On the following night, however, I was playing
at Bristol. After the concert several people came round
to see me — it is quite customary — and one gentle-
man sent in his card, on which was inscribed Senor
Julio Gonzales, ThiiiJking he was probably a musician
of some sort, I gave permission for him to come in.
He was a tall, dark, sallow-looking man, and he in-
formed me that he was a Cuban. I don't know how
it was, but he frightened me. I didn't like his eyes.
They were sinister and penetrating. After paying the
usual compliments about my playing, he picked up my
violin. " This is a beautiful instrument," he said, and
he looked at me closely. I replied that of course I
knew it was, and I began to wonder what he was after.
Drawing me a little on one side, he suddenly whispered,
" Miss Purbeck, I do not wish to disturb you, but there
is a curse on this violin ! " I asked him what he meant,
and he answered, " Thirty years ago this violin be-
longed to certain members of my family. To all of
them who played it there came tragedy." I am not a
superstitious person, and I was inclined to laugh at this
portentous statement, but the man somehow gripped me.
I could not help feeling that he was in earnest. In a
few whispered statements he told me three appalling
124 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
tragedies that had happened to different members of
the Gonzales family during the time they owned the
violin. It was horrible. Other people came up and
interrupted us, but as he went he muttered, " I warn
you. I warn you. I warn you." It all seemed very
foolish, and I tried to dismiss it from my mind, but a
few days later, being in London, I happened to men-
tion the matter to my fiance. As you know, nearly all
these old violins have a pedigree, and Mr. Beyfus
laughed and said he would look it up. Sure enough,
we found that the Guamerius had been in the possession
of the Gonzales family thirty years ago, and they had
held it for twelve years — just as he had said. Even
then we should have been disposed to laugh the matter
over, only that another imeomf ortable incident recurred
to our minds. We remembered that the Gonzales sold
it to an American gentleman in London named Mr.
Bonzard Smith, a very wealthy man who bought it for
his daughter in Boston. He expected the girl over in
the, spring. A few weeks later ^he was killed in a
sleigh accident. Of the last owners from whom Mr.
Beyfus bought it we knew nothing, but naturally the
whole thing got on my nerves a little. I was too busy,
however, to worry seriously. I determined that I must
dismiss it from my mind if I was to play well. A week
later I was plfaying the Vieuxtemps concerto at Glasgow
with the municipal orchestra. I had practically for-
gotten all about my Cuban friend. I had played
through two movements when, just as I was commen-
cing the third, I caught sight of him at the back of the
hall. He was grinning at me malevolently. I do not
know how I got through that movement. I nearly
fainted. But I did manage to struggle through. I'm
not surprised, by the way, that the Glasgow Herald
slated it I I was trembling like a leaf. When the con-
cert was over I expected him to come round, but he did
THE CUBAN ASSASSIN 125
not appear. It seemed worse that he did not appear
than if he had appeared. Was he following me about ?
" ' Mj next engagement was at Nottingham, a few
days later. I was becoming quite unstrung by the
affair. I telegraphed to Mr. Beyfus and he came at
once. I explained it to him, and he posted several men
about the hall. If Gonzales had appeared they were
going to warn him. But he did not appear. Neither
did he appear at my recital at Bedford. I was begin-
ning to think that it was pure coincidence. My next
engagement was the Harmonic Concert at the Queen^s
Hall. I was playing the same concerto that I had
played in Glasgow. For a time the importance of the
occasion, the sympathetic attention of the audience,
above all the music itself, so absorbed me that I lost all
association of idea with the Glasgow incident. But
suddenly, during the slow movement, the recollection of
it occurred to me. I had to struggle to keep my mind
on the theme* When the movement was finished I al-
most involuntarily glanced at that part of the hall where
Gonzales had been sitting at Glasgow. To my horror
I suddenly looked right into his eyes. He was sitting
about ten rows back, and he was grinning I I felt
paralysed with fear. I gripped my violin tight, as
though I expected someone to snatch it away. I heard
Sir Arthur Jeeves tapping with his baton preparatory
to the opening of the third movement. And then I
realised that I could not go on. I suppose I lost my
head. I ought to have said a word to Sir Arthur, but
instead of that I walked straight off the platform. I
raced down to the artists' room. A large fire was
burning in the grate, a clear red fire. My hands seemed
frozen and numb. Instinctively I thrust them forward
over the fire, hardly realising that I was still holding the
violin. And then the awful thing happened. The
126 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
violin slipped from my grasp and dropped right upon
the red part of the fire. I gave a cry. If my nerves
had not immediately given way I had plenty of time
to snatch the instrument away before it was damaged
beyond repair. But when I saw the flames lick round
the body of my beautiful fi'ddle I was simply hypnotised
by the tragedy. I heard the gut snap and I saw the
body of it blazing away. I believe I laughed and cried
at the same time. I suppose I was quite hystericaL
In one way I experienced a curious sense of relief, as
though the spell which the stranger had put over me
had been broken. On the other hand^ I seemed to see
all my hopes and ambitions vanishing into smoke.
How could I possibly account for it? I don't know
how long I knelt there, watching my fiddle bum, before
Sir Arthur came into the room. " What is the matter?
What is the matter. Miss Purbeck ? " he said. I really
can't remember what I answered. I believe I said,
"Yes, yes, I'm coming," and I snatched the charred
remnant from the fire as though I proposed to continue
playing on it. Sir Arthur was very kind. I suppose
I cried then. He said I was ill. I must lie down.
In any case, he could not keep the public waiting any
longer. He went away. I did not feel that I could
face the ordeal of a kind of public inquisition, so directly
he had gone back to the platform I got the commission-
aire to get me a cab and I drove away to my flat, and
then caught the midnight train to Manchester. I
brought my old fiddle with me. I am only hoping
that the public will understand and forgive me. I
am now wondering, is this Cuban going to haunt my
life, or now that the fiddle is destroyed, will he vanish
At Laura's recital at Manchester on Tuesday after-
noon there was not a vacant seat.
THE CUBAN ASSASSIN 127
The following night I visited my father at "The
Duchess of Pless." To my surprise, all the bars were
crowded. Everyone seemed to be reading or examin-
ing the evening newspapers. There was the loud hum
of conversation. My father, looking flushed and ex-
cited, was hurrying hither and thither. When he
caught sight of me, he exclaimed:
"Hullo, Tom! What's all this about Laura?''
" I know nothing except what I've read," I answered.
" It'fl a nice thing, isn't it ? I must say, it's a nice
thing " — reaching down a bottle. " Why couldn't she
tell us about this scoundrel ? I'd have done something.
I'd have settled him — this Cuban assassin ! " He
served two gentlemen with rum, and I heard him re-
peating, " Cuban assassin ! " Trade was very brisk.
I overheard the constant repetition, "Of course it is
— old Purbeck's daughter ! " Discussions were in force
about fate, and destiny, and things that had been ac-
cursed. Old Timble was holding forth on the romance
of the Hope diamond. Father appeared agitated, but I
could not help thinking that he was rather pleased with
the publicity. And once he whispered to me, " Well,
I'm glad the damn thing was burnt."
A keen-faced man, named Hatchett, who ran a small
easy-hire furnishing business in the High Street, leant
across the bar and said:
" If you ask me, Mr. Purbeck, sir, my opinion is
that the motive was robbery. He wanted to frighten
the girl, then he was either going to stea^ the violin or
oflfer her a nominal sum for it."
My father shrugged his shoulders. It might be so.
He had been to Cuba — a treacherous race — mostly
assassins. He did not like to forego the idea that the
violin really was cursed. It satisfied his superstitious
128 ONE AFTER ANOTHEB
beliefs. Things were cursed. There was no getting
away from it. There were a lot of mysteries we didn't
understand. He had once sat down thirteen to table.
During the following year one of the party had died
from heart disease. There you were !
During a slight lull later on, my father beckoned me
into the little room at the back.
" What do you think of this Edgar Beyfus ? " he said.
'' I know nothing against him/' I answered.
" Ah ! but — do you know anything for him? "
" He seems all right They say he's a clever, decent
sort of chap. One of the coming men in the concert
^* I think you can rely on him looking after her all
Then my father did a surprising thing. He offered
me a glass of port, and had one himself. ^' He wrote
to me and asked my consent, you know," he explained,
holding the port up to the light ^^ By the same poet
Laura wrote. You know what Laura is. A lot of —
well, gush. Then she put it in such a way that it meant
that whether I gave my consent or not, it wouldn't make
He laughed, and sipped the port like a connoisseur.
" I've never seen the fellow. He was to call on me^
but he's never been."
^^ Ah ! he ought to have been. I think you will like
him. This is good port, dad."
^^ Yes, it's the real thing, isn't it } Have some more,
if you like."t
" Thanks very much."
Two glasses of port went to my head. I said :
^^ This is going to be a big thing for Laura, dad. I
thought it might ruin her career. Instead of that, I
believe it will make her. Everybody in England is
THE CUBAN ASSASSIN 129
talking about her. She is destined to be great At
Manchester yesterday they sold out. I believe she'll
be all the rage."
My father's eyes glowed quietly. Was I under an
illusion when I fancied that he, too, had been drinking
— a little more than customary? He was seldom so
chatty and familiar with me. The din from the bars
seemed to increase. I can't quite remember what I
said, but I know I became a little sentimental.
Father's brilliant daughter, my brilliant sister — and I
had no jealousy of her. I was rather proud, that was
all. It seemed so queer when I thought of the days
when she and I used to play in the yard at the bade
I was always the waverer, but Laura never had any mis-
givings. Since she was a kid, she meant to be great.
Like many great people, she was perhaps a little un-
scrupulous. One couldn't help that. It was just —
Laura. If she was abrupt and inconsiderate at times
one had to forgive her. Fundamentally she wasn't only
an ambitious woman. She paid for her mistakes in her
conscience. She was really far kinder and more sym-
pathetic than I. She was ambitious, of course. • . •
Father listened, and nodded, and his eyes roamed.
He tapped the bowl of his pipe against the mantelshelf.
" It's all right up to a point," he ejaculated once. A
loud high giggle came from the saloon bar, and then a
man's voice bawling out something very loud. He
pushed by me, and I heard the door snap to. Above
the cries in the bar I suddenly heard that boom of
" Silence, gentlemen I "
Laura's wedding^ which took place a month later, was
a very different affair from mine. It was done in style
130 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
at a fashionable church, with a reception at a smart
West End hotel. There were crowds of guests. Marj
and I hardly knew anyone. Father wandered about the
room with a red face, looking as though he wanted to
fight someone. Uncle Stephen appeared in a brand-
new, badly-fitting tail-coat. He drank too much cham-
pagne, and had to be snubbed by Laura for over-
familiarity. This was not " Baionnette's day." Well-
known artists and newspaper people were in evidence,
for Laura was becoming famous. The incident of the
Cuban assassin had given a tremendous fillip to her
popularity. Everywhere where she had played during
the month the halls had been crowded. Many people
went out of a morbid curiosity to see whether the villain
would be there, or whether there would be a scene.
At Hull a sallow little man with a black moustache was
suddenly credited with being the man. A crowd waited
for him afterwards and assaulted him. He was nearly
thrown into the river, and only escaped through the
intervention of the police. He turned out to be a little
Austrian barber, with a passion for Bach, who had
never heard of the Cuban assassin and was completely
bewildered by his sudden unpopularity. He thought
the world had gone crazy.
This incident also attracted considerable notice in
the Press, and the little barber was surprised to find
his photograph in the newspapers, above an article be-
ginning : " There was very nearly a tragic sequel to the
remarkable experience of Miss Laura Purbeck, the well-
known violinist," etc.
Laura herself was more elusive than ever. It was
impossible to get hold of her and cross-examine her
about the details. She was always " simply frantically
busy " or " rushed off her feet." On the only occasions
when Mary and I saw her, Edgar was with her and
usually other people. She appeared to be in a tre-
THE CUBAN ASSASSIN 131
mendous state of excitement^ like a person drunk with
life. Only once^ in the passage of a restaurant, did I
get a few words alone with her, and then she squeezed
my arm and said:
" Dear old boy, I^m so happy."
I wanted her to come and spend an evening alone
with us, and she promised that she would, but at the
last moment she telegraphed that it was impossible.
When we tackled her with the abruptness of the wedding
arrangements, she laughed and explained that she was
shortly going on a tour in Holland and Germany, and
that if she married and took Edgar it would save taking
a maid. Edgar said that this was quite true, and that
he was taking lessons in needle-work, and studying the
construction of lingerie.
" I see what you mean by his being the wrong man,"
I said to Mary one day. " He always flirts with her.
If you love anybody very much you don't flirt with
them — except, perhaps, sometimes when you are
" Edgar is quite the wrong sort of person for Laura,"
answered my wife. "He'll feed all that side of her
which craves for success and glamour, and starve the
" There's never been anyone yet who has influenced
her at all. She has done just what she thought she
would. It's queer how different we are. I am like
clay in the hands of the potter," I said, kissing my
wife's hair. Then she held my cheeks between her
hands and looked at my eyes quizzically.
" You're a funny old tiling I " she said.
I was now earning one hundred and fifty pounds a
year as a scene-painter. I felt very important I was
182 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
a married man, with a bouse and a child and responsi-
bilities. The years had slipped by almost unnoticed.
We no Icmger bathed Midge. Madeline performed that
operation by herself. She b^an to talk and to have
ideas of her own. I bored the men at the studio with a
repetition of her remarks and stories. During my
work I would suddenly stop and dream of her. I could
almost feel her little arms round my neck, and hear
the merry ripple of her voice. She was already like
Mary, not only in looks, but in that mothering, man-
aging way of doing things. Another Mary to lighten
the dark spaces of the world. And I would sigh, and
dream, and dream, till suddenly the voice of Mr. Becher
would boom across the ro(Hn:
^' On such a night, when the sweet wind did gently
kiss the trees, and they did make no noise Boy!
. • . Take wassail to Mr. Purbeck ; he is sighing his love
towards the Orecian tent, where Cressid lay that
Was I completely happy? I couldn't tell. Some-
times a wave of restless ambition would sweep over
me, the kind of ambition that Laura had, and then the
voices would become mute under the sheer beauty and
tranquillity of the hour. Life seemed suflBcient unto
itself. Why should I be ambitious? I was fully
conscious that my career, so-called, was a poor thing
compared with Laura's^ Here was I, nearly thirty,
utterly unknown and undistinguished, earning a meagre
wage, with no particular prospects. Indeed, the pros-
pects were not as bright as they had promised to be.
The scene-painting world was passing through a diffi-
cult time, owing to the encroachments of the upholsterer.
People no longer wrote plays which demanded forest
glades, or cornfields crimson with poppies. Nearly* all
our sets were interiors. " The moming^room at Lady
Blanksyde's.'^ Just white panelling to be ruled out to
THE CUBAN ASSASSIN 183
scale, and the furniture man did the rest. Had it not
been for pantomime, we should have had little play
for our fancy. No one is interested in the personality
of the man who rules out the panelling in Lady Blank-
syde's moming^room. But Laura — Laura would
probably know the real Lady Blanksyde herself. She
would play in her drawing-room, feel quite at home at
her country-house party, assume it as her right to be
flirted with by Lady Blanksyde's guests. On the other
hand, the little house in the Plane Tree Grove, with
its gas going wrong, and the geyser which leaked, and
all the petty household troubles. And Mary suddenly
discovering a streak of grey hair, and Madeline's voice :
" Daddy, daddy, when are you going to bring me home
that big, big Noah's Ark? "
Would I change all this with Laura? Sometimes
yes. Sometimes no. Mostly no. Oh, yes, assuredly
no. Laura disturbed me, but she did not make me
envious^ A far more disconcerting element was Eadic.
Radic, the madman, who did one thing well and with a
fine frenzy. I felt somehow ashamed of meeting Badic.
I knew fliat he despised my profession. He would
sneer and show his yellow teeth like a jackal. " Paintr
ing for business I Bah! These chevaliers d'tn-
Sometimes I wondered whether there was anything
in life to be sought for but happiness. And generally
I persuaded myself that there was not. I was wildly
happy . . . only on occasions would come that sudden
vague emptiness, as though some deep chord in my
nature was craving expression ... as though I was
only marking time.
When Laura returned from the Continent, a change
in her became apparent. She seemed more developed,
134 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
more /florid. More brilliant than ever to look at, she
indulged in effects which are usually denoted by the
word " striking." On the platform she wore crimson
camaticms in her hair and a band of black velvet. Her
frocks were barbaric. In her playing her tone was just
as full and mellow, but she had developed tricks of
exaggerating the rubato, of playing about with the time
to get dramatic effects, of over^entimentalising. More-
over, in her whole attitude there was more abandon.
She swayed from the hips, and acted the music with her
f aca She came on to the platform with the assurance of
a star performer, and selected pieces which showed off
her virtuosity. Concert-director Edgar Beyfus todt a
suite of offices in Hanover Square, furnished with Chip-
pendale and Persian rugs. He employed some half-
dozen immaculately-dressed young clerks. Telephones
and typewriters clanged discords in the outer offices.
Newspaper advertisements began to speak of coming
world-activities. The name of Laura Purbeck was never
out of his lists. She was now referred to as ^^ the great
English virtuoso." Cunningly arranged quotations
from the Dutch and German newspapers gave the im-
pression that a new comet had appeared in the musical
heavens. Needless to say, this orgy of exploitation had
its reaction. The soberer London journals detest a fan-
fare. They criticised her in no measured terms. But
their criticism in no wise affected her popular success.
The glamour of the romance about the Cuban assassin
still hung around her, and the glamour of her recent
marriage fanned the flames. Everything about Laura
was abrupt Abruptly she had leapt into fame, and
equally abruptly the older musical societies and con-
ductors dropped her. She became a popular draw at
ballad-concerts, where her rendering of a trifle like the
HumoresJee of Dvorak would never fail to bring down
the house. The angle of her musical outlook seemed
THE CUBAN ASSASSIN 136
to have changed abruptly. She was no longer the rest-
less and dissatisfied student groping for beauty, uncer-
tain, mysterious, reverent. She was a mistress of her
moods. Whenever we saw her she was always in the.
highest spirits. One night I said to Mary:
" If only she would cry ! I would like her to come to
me one day and — like she did in the old days — sud-
denly be uncertain of herself, not understand herself,
but just be natural and have a good cry. It can't be
right to be so satisfied/'
A few days later they came and told me that Kadic
was dead. He had died suddenly in a nursing-home,
after an operation on the throat. The news moved me
profoundly. My poor old madman! He was just
twenty-seven — a comet indeed. He had scrambled
through his untidy life under the momentum of an
almost undefined impulse. Old warring currents
stirred in his past. Who could tell the bitterness and
the anguish that went to his making? He never
spoke of his mother or of his people, but he sometimes
talked feelingly of his country. Small, unhealthy, bit-
ter, greedy, cynical, and lascivious, and yet under the
folds of this tragic entity there stirred something big.
^ I liked him because he was transparent. Tl^e world to
him was just a ridiculous place. If he had found it
different, he, too, might have been different. He was
remorseless in his sincerity. Doubtless, in the years to
come, people would observe a low-toned landscape hang-
ing on a wall, and they would say, " By Jove ! that's a
fine thing. Who did that?" And then I could see
the sallow face of my friend peering across the ages
suspiciously. He would be licking his lips and fidget-
ing, as he muttered, " You fool ! What do you know
Most vividly came back to me the memory of that
day when I told Radic the story about the Cuban. He
186 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
never read the newspapers, so he had heard nothing
about it. He listened to all I had to say, fidgeting with
a palette as he did so. He grinned, and uttered little
clucks of derision. When I had finished he remarked :
" Well, that was one up on Beyfus, anyway." Then
he squeezed out a long wriggle of flake-white, and added :
" I was certain it wasn't the Guamerius they burned.
That proves it"
I protested that he was wrong in that respect. Laura
would never have consented to such a criminal action.
Suddenly Radic put the palette down and caught hold
of my waistcoat-button.
" Purbeck," he said, " if the world was composed of
more fools like you, and less knaves like Beyfus — I'd
start all over again. Yes, believe me. I'd go to church,
and wear clean collars. I'd read the newspapers. I'd
believe in God."
ANNA was barely twenty when she became at-
tached to Mr. Becher's studio. She occupied
L a small room off the passage, where she did all
the accounts and the typewriting. She was the subject
of endless but quite innocuous mirth by all the members
of the staff. Mr. Becher called her Eosalind, Duncan
called her the Queen Bee. We all had our pet names
for her, but we were very circumspect and proper in
our attitude towards her. Anna did not encourage
frivolity. She was reserved, competent, and a little
matronly. I have never known anyone so changeable in
appearance. She seemed to be a hundred different
women, and each one with an aspect of her own. I was
always having to peep into her room to see whether she
was anyone fresh. Her face was rather heavily-
modelled for her age, and her figure developed and yet
slim. At her best she was undoubtedly a very pretty
girl. At her worst a very interesting and appealing
child. She had masses of light-brown hair, and a clear,
warm complexion. Her movements were brisk; her
expressions slow and watchful. She appeared to take
no notice of anyone, and yet to be ever on the alert.
She had queer blue-grey eyes that hardly' ever looked
at you, except occasionally to give you a quick, pene-
trating glance. It was difficult to get her to talk. She
was very shy, but self-contained. This very reserve
piqued your interest. You felt that she had a depth
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
188 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
of feeling, of passion perhaps, as yet nnawakened. Her
Yoioe was low, musical, and refined. She spoke to ns,
not as thongh she disliked ns, bnt as though she thought
we were just amusing little people she was oliserving
from the heights of Parnassus. We did not count very
much, one way or the other. One day Mr. Becher re-
" That girl will drive me mad. When I go in there
to dictate a letter I feel like a schoolboy addressing the
Sphinx. I want to be young and make love to her, just
to see what happens. She has everything. Dido and
^neas, Paolo and Francesca, Lady Macbeth, Rosalind,
Mary Magdalene, Becky Sharp, Catherine of Russia,
Boadicea, the smell of Parma violets, the tears of
Beethoven, laughter, Zejihyr with Aurora playing when
he met her once a-maying, and so on, and so forth.
She's a kind of embryo of all these things. I wish one
of you boys would make love to her and tell me all
These remarks were only addressed to Duncan and
myself, and I knew, as a matter of fact, that it was
superfluous to give Dtmcan this advice, for I had al-
ready observed his advances. Duncan was like a male
bird in the mating season. His feathers were at their
glossiest when Anna entered the room. His rich col-
ouring appeared to express his virility. His voice,
when he addressed her, assiuned a mellow timbre like a
warm caress. He gave a superb exhibition of modu-
lated empressement. He said nothing excessive, only in
his manner and the tones of his voice did he betray the
erotic craftsman. There was something positively dis-
gusting in the way that he went to work. And he was
such a good-looking boy.
" If Anna stands up to this," I thought, " she will
be a very remarkable little — typist ! "
Duncan pursued her during the whole of one winter
without achieving any success at alL Anna would have
nothing to do with him.
'^ She's not my quarry, old man," he said to me one
day. " She's certainly going to be someone's, but I've
drawn a blank."
'^Tou are a beast," I replied. "Why don't you
leave her alone? You know you're just fooling.
You've no idea of marrying her."
" I don't know," he said. " I hadn't at first. It's
awfully runu But Fm simply getting crazy on that
girl. I believe I would marry her if I had a chance."
In the middle of the afternoon, a few days later,
Duncan suddenly came to me and asked me to come out
to the yard at the back. He looked very red in the
face and crestfallen.
" I've had a hell of a time, old man," he said, when
we were alone. "I lost my head. I went in there.
She was standing up, leaning over some papers. I went
up and put my arms around her, and kissed her on the
cheeks and lips. My God, it was awful ! She flew at
me like a panther. She struck me in the face. She
snatched up a ruler. I've never seen such a face —
blazing. I just bolted. I'm afraid there'll be a row.
She'll teU the guv'nor, or resign, or lie in wait and
I told him that it served him right. At the same
time, we didn't want a rumpus, so I suggested that I
should go and apologise for him, and say that he simply
lost his head, and he was very sorry. Duncan agreed,
and I immediately went to her room. She was seated
at the typwriter. Her eyes were very bright and her
cheeks flushed. She looked uncommonly pretty. I
stood by the door and said :
140 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
" Excuse me, Miss Kempner, Mr. Brice has asked me
to come and offer you his apologies. He had been out
to lunch with some chaps. They had a bottle of wine.
He's awfully sorry he made such a fool of himself.
He lost his head. He promises not to do anything of
the sort again, if you will forgive him."
For nearly ten seconds her eyes were fixed on mina
I felt her looking right through me, to see whether I
was speaking the truth or whether I was laughing at
her. It seemed an eternity. At last she lowered her
eyes and said:
She shru^ed her shoulders, as though the whole thing
was beneath contempt. She fiddled about with the
machine. As I was going out of the door she looked up
at me again, and I could not take my eyes from hers.
Something nearly approaching a smile lightened her
face. I managed to gasp :
" It's very good of you."
She looked down, and the noisy machine began to
This little incident appeared to establish a bond be-
tween Anna and myself. On several occasions I found
her watching me with a queer, deep anxiety. I felt
enormously flattered. I was the only one of the staff
that she trusted, with, perhaps, the exception of Mr.
Becher, whom everyone treated like a child. On one
or two occasions she even ventured to address a remark
to me about the work, and I was careful to show that
I had no intention of taking advantage of this little
attention. She never referred again to the incident
with Duncan, and she did not treat him with any
special show of animosity. The little tigress in her was
appeased, and I felt glad that I had had a small share
in the appeasement. During the lunch-hour I some-
times found her reading in the outer office, and I would
go and have a few words with her about books. I real-
ised the importance of being very gradual in my
advances. She interested me, and I wanted to draw her
out I pictured one day taking her home and intro-
ducing her to Mary. Mary would be sure to find a
mine of interest in Anna. She would help her, intro-
duce her to our friends, perhaps to just the right friend.
The girl seemed out of place in this Paddington office.
I don't know what I expected, but I was rather dis-
appointed in her choice of literature. She was a
voracious reader, but Marie Corelli seemed to be her
ideal. Marie Corelli, Edna Lyall, H. Seton Merri-
man, Mrs. Humphry Ward, and other people whose
names I had never heard of. I think I expected to
find her reading Alfred de Musset, or Cervantes, or at
least Tolstoy. But it didn't matter. She was primi-
tive, unformed. Mr. Becher was right. She was the
embryo of every feminine past, present, and future
I learnt, after a time, that she lived with her mother
and two sisters in a fiat near Paddington Eecreation
Ground, about ten minutes' walk from the studio. Her
mother was the widow of a north-country dentist.
They had at one time been quite well off. One of
her sisters managed a penny bazaar; the other was
studying calisthenics witib the idea of becoming an in-
structress; whilst a third sister had married a clergy-
man and lived at Southend. Anna herself had
attended a well-known ladies' college in Yorkshire;
when she was only fourteen her father died, and the
family had to retrench. I got all this information out
of her piecemeal. Sometimes, if we happened to leave
the studio at the same time, I would walk with her
to the comer of her road. I found her a sympathetic
listener to my stories about Madeline. Her eyes
lighted up and she really laughed. It was a great joy
142 ONE AFTER ANOTHEE
to mBy as I walked down in the morning and recalled
some particularly bright saying of Madeline's, to think
to myself, " I must tell Anna that. She will enjoy it/'
The men had been somewhat chilling about my daugh-
ter's exploits and repartee, and it made a great
difference to feel that at last I had someone to con-
February and March that year were depressing
months, windy and wet, and the country was suffering
from what is known as a wave of economic unrest
Mary developed varicose veins in her left leg and was
obliged to remain indoors. Madeline had a series of
colds which kept her from school. Mrs. Copley lost
a lot of money, owing to the failure of a copra company
in which she had shares. My father had a return of
rheumatism in the eyes. TJncle Stephen had broken
out into betting again, and been unsuccessful. No one
seemed to be having a good time except Laura, who
now occupied an imposing flat in Mayfair, and kept
two servants and three chows, and took cabs every-
Our house began to show splotches of damp, and the
builder said it required underpinning, an operation
which would cost sixty-five pounds, and which the land-
lord refused to have anything to do with. I was not
making enough money, and I could not ask Mr. Becher
for an increase. The scene-painting world was not
Suddenly I began to be assailed by that fatal vision
which looks at life in perspective. We should be get-
ting old. I had accomplished nothing. I could not
even repair the wall-paper sagging in the hall. Mary
thought I was " a funny old thing." The mjen thought
I was "a queer old chap." The Rev. Parke Tidsall
had hinted that I should never get on because I was
nothing but " just a nice boy."
THe only person in whose eyes I seemed to loom as
something large and significant was Anna Kempner.
With her I felt important, a living force, an exceptional
Things being slack, Mr. Becher said one day that we
could all leave oflF at four o'clock. I walked home with
Anna, and just as I was leaving her, she looked at me
timidly, and said :
" Would you care to come home to tea with mother ? "
I answered that I should be delighted. Mrs. Kemp-
ner was a solidly-built old lady, with a pleasant manner.
She shook hands and said:
" I'm very pleased to meet you, Mr. Purbeck. Fve
heard a lot about you. My daughter tells me how clever
Clever ! I blushed to the roots of my hair and stam-
mered dissent Anna thought I was clever! No one
had ever accused me of being clever before. What on
earth was I clever at? But it must be true, because
Anna thought so. I glowed with pride. I admired
the room and Mrs. Kempner's taste in decoration.
We talked for some time, and then the calisthenic
sister came it. She was taller than Anna, a strong,
fresh-complexioned girl, but equally reserved. As I
sat in the company of these three women I could not
help being impressed by their healthy fuU-bloodedness.
The room was very clean, the window open, and a
warm March wind fanned the lace curtains. It was
like being out in the open, and yet being warm and
comfortable. They were very simple and easy to talk
to. In Mrs. Kempner and the sister there was some-
thing Amazonian. Anna had the physique, but she
was softer, rounder, more feline. A magpie in a cage
144 ONE AFTEE ANOTHEE
uttered shrill notes of discord. The others did not
seem to notice it
I tried to describe the room afterwards to Mary. I
did not really admire Mrs. Kempner's taste in furnish-
ing, but the room had a peculiar hypnotic eflfect on
mc. The furniture was rather like the furniture
father had in the parlour at *^ The Duchess of Pless/'
but there was much less of it, and everything was
mercilessly polished. The wall-paper was in white
stripes and the lace curtains were caught up with a
crimson sash. On the tea-table was a pot of red berries.
It was a bright, undistinguished room, and yet, as the
March wind crept through the open window and the
magpie screamed, I felt that I was being translated
to some unexpected and transcendental state of being.
I wanted to talk, and I did talk. I talked better than
I 1 d ever talked before. And Anna kept on looking
at me, and giving quick little glances at her mother
and sister. When I told Mary this, she laughed, and
" You are a funny old thing ! '*
And I could see nothing funny about it at all.
After that it became quite a habit. On two or
three days a week I would go home to tea with Anna.
It was very convenient and pleasant. And then, one
day at the beginning of April, I asked her to tea on a
Sunday to meet Mary. I felt tremendously excited
about this event. I felt that it was of the utmost
importance that Mary should like Anna. It was a
bright spring day and we had tea in the dining-room.
I donH know how it was, but the meeting was not a
success. We were all at our worst. Anna was very
shy, almost taciturn. Mary did most of the talking,
and that was mostly about shopping, and frocks, and
actors. All my brilliance had vanished. I could say
nothing. I did nothing but fidget and look from one to
the other, and pray for inspiration. And then Mad-
eline came in, and she was in one of her perverse moods.
She had been very upset because Mary would not let
her go and play with some boys in a disused railway-
yard, and she was inclined tp be peevish.
I was quite relieved whfn it became time for Anna
to go. I saw her on to a 'bus. When I got back I
asked Mary anxiously what she thought of her.
" Oh,'' she said, " she seems quite nice . . . rather
The heavy scowl of London broke into a smile at the
approach of spring. Fresh flowers pushed their way
through the soot-begrimed earth in our garden. The
black trees developed surprising patterns of pink . id
white. Window-boxes, gay with tulipjs and margue-.
rites, symbolised the rejuvenescence of exhausted
humanity. Women put away their furs and fought
at bargain sales for the spoils of sartorial genius.
Young men broke out into coloured socks and ties,
walked down to business and asked their guv'nors for
a rise, got refused, and didn't care. What did it mat-
ter? The old earth had been saving up for this
moment all the winter. There would always be a girl
on the 'bus to ogle on the way home. Any day might
produce a millennium. At its worst, it couldn't avoid
a romance. Duncan announced that he formally
handed Anna over to me. He had other irons in the
fire. He hummed from morning till night, like a bee
above the clover.
Of course, I expected that. I knew the men would
begin to make innuendoes about Anna and me. They
were a decent lot of chaps, but their standard of moral-
ity was not very high. Old Jouquet, who painted
146 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
figure-panels and wouldn't drink beer, was a coarse
old beast. He treated my assertion that my affection
for Anna was purely fraternal or paternal as being a
Duncan said to him one day, "I bet youVe been
round some comers in your time, Jouk."
" My boy,'' he answered, " I've done everything pos-
sible. I haven't it on my conscience that I have ever
missed a single opportunity."
And he clucked his tongue like a well-satisfied
Anna was certainly becoming very necessary to me.
I spent, of course, the greater part of my waking time
at the studio. I left home in the morning at half-
past eight, and I arrived back in the evening some-
what exhausted. Mary said I was getting dull. She
sometimes remarked, "You are not listening to what
I say." And when I answered, *' Yes, I am, darling,"
she would say quickly, " Then what did I say ? " And
then, of course, I didn't know. It was deplorable.
I had to pull myself together.
One day Duncan and I had to call at a West End
theatre to take particulars of some scenery that was to
be adapted. We finished our work rather sooner than
" As we are here," said Duncan, " we'll go and have
lunch somewhere decent."
I felt in the mood for some mild dissipation, so we
Went to the Trocadero. Down in the grill-room a
band was playing. Duncan, in his lordly way, ordered
a large bottle of Beaune. We did ourselves very well.
We became extremely garrulous. He made me several
intimate confessions. I was a dull dog in comparison,
but the wine went to my head. I kept on thiiJting of
Laura, then of Anna. This was Laura's life. Music,
and thrills, and wine, and good things, everything
heated . . . exhilarating. Life, life — what was that
thing they were playing? ... A Spanish dance.
Dark-eyed women in mantillas, swaying in a rose-
tinted room, with the violet night outside; love and
passion. Why do some people inherit all these things,
take them as their birthright, whilst others . . . ?
After all, what is anything in comparison with this?
The primal appeal of the life-force . . . The only
thing that counts.
Looking past Duncan I suddenly saw Anna, not in
actuality but in a kind of fury of my imagination. An
amazing and significant fact concerning her seemed to
grip my will and hold me spellbound. I wanted to say
" She^s saving them for her lover."
And then I could not explain it to him. I had
noticed so often, but had learnt nothing from it till
that moment Anna never kissed anyone — not even
her mother. She had a curious way of holding out
the point of her jaw for the other person to kiss.
She did it with Mary. She did it with her sisters.
She even did it with her mother. It was as though she
was under a vow. All the message of those full, strong
lips was being hoarded for someone. All her reserve
was the sluice-gates of a mighty dam. She was pas-
sion personified. She was concentrating on a subcon-
scious purpose. She was hoarding. She was atavistic.
And then my colleague, with his : " She^s going to be
A feeling of spiritual shock came to me. I was
stunned. I could not hear what Duncan was saying.
He was talking about a chorus-girl he had met at the
seaside. It seemed trivial and ridiculous. I wanted
to scream across the table at him:
" Can't you see, you fool, she's saving them for her
lover? That's why she scratched you."
148 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
Duncan ordered a liqueur, and I drank it The
band was playing something Hungarian now, but it
was all on the same theme :
"She's saving them for her lover."
The madness which assailed me after this episode is
a thing I cannot analyse. When we got back to the
studio I had to rush and peep at her in her room,
to see whether she was still there, or whether she was
even yet another woman — perhaps Cleopatra, or Dido,
or Pallas Athene. Yes, I should certainly have placed
her among the myths that afternoon : possibly the Lady
of Shalot; the typewriter would make an excellent
loom. She looked up and said :
I answered : " Oh, I thought perhaps uncle was in
here," and I darted away.
Problems and questionings piled one upon another.
" Why should one man have so much ? "
I avoided her. I did not go home to tea with her.
I pretended to myself that the solution did not con-
cern me. I warded it off for a whole week, fully know-
ing the answer. And then, one night in bed, the ironic
" It is all yours for the asking."
I felt almost relieved to acknowledge this to myself.
At last I was under no illusion. All that remained
was to keep myself in hand, to retain my sense of pro-
portion. It could not be difficult. I hurried home in
the evenings. I was busy making Madeline a minia-
ture theatre. . . .
Ten days went by, during which I did not speak to
Anna unless it was about some matter concerning the
work. Then, one afternoon, she met me in the passage.
She rested her hand on my arm, and said :
"Will you come home to tea to-day, Mr. Pnr-
I was surprised. I thought she must know that I
was trying to avoid her. I stanmiered and said, " Yes,
I did not see how I could refuse; besides — what
harm could there be? Her mother and sister, and
the harsh-toned magpie, and the bright crockery —
all very, very — safe.
It was a warm evening, and we walked in silence to
the door of the flat. Anna opened the door with her
latchkey. I put down my hat and we entered the
drawing-room. It was empty. Anna left me for a
few minutes; then she returned with a loose wrapper
over her shoulders. She came straight up to me and
" They are all out No one will be back for two
Then she closed her eyes and held up her lips to me.
Neither of us spoke a word. I do not think that for
the whole time I was there — nearly an hour and a
half — we exchanged a single sentence. Even when
I left I could not get my voice. I was too ashamed to
I went through agonies of elation and remorse. I
don't think that at any time I lost sight of one central
fact — I did not love Anna, not in the big way, not in
the way I loved Mary. But she was a madness which
coloured my life. Had it not been for that abrupt
conception of her as a girl " saving her lips for her
lover " I might have been less foolish. As it was, she
150 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
was a torment — and a torment I could not share with
Maiy. In her presence I was day in the hands of
the potter. Her kisses maddened me. It could not
go on. We arranged chance meetings. Once I tdd
Mary I was going to the theatre with Duncan, and I
took Anna up on Hampstead Heath. At other times
I went home to tea with her when her mother and
sister were out
^^All these years she has been saving her lips for
I could not escape the obsession of this central idea.
I felt all my moral fibre loosening. I began to drink,
in order to escape. One evening I held her in my
arms. We were in a dark passage of the flats. I
"Anna, will you come away with me for a week-
end quietly ? "
She clung to me and said, " Yes.''
We had been working late, and I had drunk a lot of
port I laughed savagely and pinched her. I wanted
to hurt her.
"You darling!" I said. "Then, listen. We will
go down to Felixstowe on Saturday. There is quite a
decent hotel there. No one will hiow us. I tell you
what we'll do. We'll go down separately. We'll
occupy separate bedrooms . . . adjoining, do you see ?
I got the tip from Duncan. It works better. In case
anything came out afterwards, don't you understand?
. . . nothing could be proved. Separate names, sep-
arate bags, everything . . . mustn't run risks."
She nodded gravely.
I could hardly breathe. In the night I decided to
countermand the whole thing. I could not sleep. On
the morrowj Mary said:
" You are looking very pale, darling. You look as
though you want a change."
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
It seemed almofit like the finger of fate. Instanta-
neously I went back on my noctamal resolution.
" It is funny," I said, " that you should have said
that. Duncan wanted me to go down to Felixstowe with
him for the week-end. Do you think it would be all
" Of course, darling."
Dash it! if she hadn^t been so sweet about it, how
much easier it would have been! If she had only
been suspicious or hostile, or even diflSdent — but that
warm-hearted " Of course, darling ! " How I hated
The daflPodils were clustering in masses in the
park. The starlings were busy among the sprout-
ing shrubs. The world seemed quivering with senti-
ent movement. The days drifted by. After all . . .
On Saturday the face of London changed again. It
had that sullen stare which is surely foreign to any
other city. The skies were an unbroken pall of leaden
grey, as though it had always rained, and it always
meant to rain for ever and ever. Irresolution was
my reigning goddess. The fact that I had given way
to the idea in thought seemed to discard all my better
promptings in deed. Even if I didn't go — my mind
was bitten with the acid of a feral impulse.
"I shall get drunk," I thought. "And then it
won't seem so awful."
I hugged the thought all the morning. I hated my-
seK sober. Anna gave me her slow smile.
" The train is 4.15, you said ? "
"Yes, 4.15 from Liverpool Street."
I limched with Duncan and drank an enormous quan-
tity of beer. I went home about three o'clock to col-
lect my bag. The rain was still coming down in
torrents. I could not look at Mary. In the drawing-
room a fire was burning brightly. The tea was laid
162 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
on a silver tray by the Chesterfield. Madeline would
be in later . . .
" I've packed your bag, darling/^
" Oh, thanks."
" What a disgusting day ! I'm afraid you are wet
I've put out some socks for you. You had better
change at once."
"Thanks; I will."
I crept upstairs. I was tingling all over. My bag
was packed and neatly strapped. The room seined
dark. I could not focus anything. Absently I
changed my socks. The rain came in squalls against
the window. I switched on the light. Some impulse
made me glance down at my feet. As I did so, I felt
my heart beat rapidly. I stared at the socks on my
feet as though I was looking at a ghost. One was a
brown woolly one, the other was a black one with a
light blue clock. They were identical with the ones
— I had worn on ... on our honeymoon — Mary's
and mine. . . .
When I went down to the drawing-room the firelight
was playing on her face and on the arms of the chintz-
covered chair. Otherwise the room was in deep
shadow. An unfamiliar noise greeted my ears. Mary
I believe I wept, too, then.
I went down on my knees. . . .
I never went to Felixstowa
8U00BSS HAS ITS PBICB
ONE night early in June we dined with Laura
and Edgar at their Mayfair flat The other
guests were a Mr. and Mrs. Burwell and a
young German pianist named Freitel. Mr. Burwell
was a well-nurtured, elderly gentleman who was rather
deaf. Having plenty of money, he had devoted his
whole life to travelling about the earth slaughtering
animals. He had killed caribou in Iceland, bears in
Siberia, lions in Africa, and cheetahs up in the Hi-
malayas. He had inherited the fortune which allowed
him to indulge in this orgy of bloodshed from an uncle
who owned a drapery establishment in the West End,
employing several thousand anaemic girls. His wife
was a fair-haired woman with a long neck bound up
with a quadruple line of pearls. She whinnied when
you spoke to her. Freitel was an earnest, thoughtful-
looking boy in horn spectacles. He spoke better
English than I have ever heard spoken by an English-
man. He talked slowly, cleaning up each word as he
went along, looking ahead, building up sentences which
dazzled you with their logic and construction and
length. His sentences were like verbal sky-scrapers.
Laura was wearing a gorgeous frock of old-gold satin
with touches of green, and a jade necklace. I thought
she looked pale and rather on edge. She was inclined
to be snappy when we arrived. She pulled Mary up
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
164 ONE AFTEE ANOTHER
over one of her pet stories about Madeline. She was
quite rude to Mrs. Burwell because she whinnied at
the wrong moment when Freitel was developing an
argument It was a curiously strained dinner-party.
We all seemed uncertain why we were asked to meet
each other. I was subtly aware that all the time there
was some undercurrent of dissension going on between
Edgar and Laura. We all seemed to be pawns in the
game. This was particularly true of Freitel. I could
not tell whether Edgar had invited him, or Laura, but
one was playing him off against the other. When he
spoke they exchanged challenging glances.
Edgar did most of the talking, in his quick, level
tones. He was equally charming to everybody. He
even talked about moose and caribou and wild duck and
twelve-bore guns as though he knew something about it.
He nearly elicited a complete sentence out of Mrs.
Burwell, but it ended in a neigh. He was interested
to hear that I had left Mr. Becher's studio and had
gone into partnership with a young man named Jevons.
He flattered Mary about her frock. He paid his wife
pretty compliments. He drew out Freitel. If the
dinner-party was not a success, it could certainly not
be attributed to our host.
When the champagne arrived, Laura seemed grad-
ually to melt to a more genial mood. Mr. BurwelPs
bloody tales, which before had disgusted her, now
only made her laugh. The dinner was excellent —
it goes without saying. Two neat maids waited swiftly
and dexterously. I could not help being intrigued
by the remarkable contrast between Mr. Burwell and
Freitel, who both sat opposite me. Burwell, with his
comfortable urbanity, ensconced in the familiar security
of a good dinner, letting fall sayings like, " By Gad !
Beyfus, seven guns and a bag of three hundred," and
the studious detachment of Freitel, a little shy in his
SUCCESS HAS ITS PKICE 155
surroundings, unwilling to accept either food or state-
ment without the most minute consideration. I once
detected him smelling a piece of pheasant on his fork,
not as though he harboured any suspicion of secret
treachery by his host, but as though he wished to assure
himself of his complete understanding of organic life.
He heralded most of his opinions with a preamble
somewhat like this :
" I do not feel myself fully qualified in this partic-
ular case either to dissent from, or in any way to
qualify, the extremely interesting theory you have
advanced, notwithstanding a considerable period of my
life devoted to — what I think I may adjudge — an
exhaustive study of collateral theories. I am handi-
capped, perhaps, by my allegiance to the never-to-be-
overlooked doctrines of Herr Professor Eitel von
Strumpfmeyer, whose constructive system of ethics and
high spiritual outlook has always been an inspiration
t) me. Nevertheless . . ."
He and Mr. Burwell occasionally looked at each
other as though each was observing an almost unbeliev-
able relic in a museum of curiosities.
When Laura had had three glasses of champagne she
began to ask Mary about Madeline. She adored Made-
line, but she seemed to have peculiar moods about the
child. There were times when she disliked us talking
about her, and other times when we couldn't talk
enough. Auntie Laura was always a great favourite
when she honoured us with a visit, and no one found
such wonderful and uncommon toys. From the sub-
ject of Madeline she flew at a violent tangent to the
subject of the great success she had had two nights
previously in Birmingham.
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
166 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
" The place was packed. They simply loved the
Silver and glass sparkled on the dark oak table.
Carnations and gentians snuggled in little beds of moss
beneath the modulated lights.
Edgar raised his glass^ and looked across it at Laura
with an expression which seemed to signify that some
crisis was passed.
^' Laura had a great success/' he said, addressing us
all. " An enormous success. *'
" Good ! good ! " exclaimed Mr, Burwell, with his
mouth full of quail. " That's what I like to hear.
Do you know what my old uncle used to say, Beyfus —
and he was a successful man, if ever there was one:
rose from nothing, fought his way up "
" What did he say, Mr. Burwell ? " asked Laura.
" He said to me, * Success has its price, Henry.'
Now what do you think of that ? He said it not once,
but a hundred times.
" * Success has its price ! ' That's what the old boy
said. Well, he worked hard, I must say. Always
trouble with the work-people — lazy, shifty lot of
devils. Ha, ha, ha! you're a lucky one, Mrs. Beyfus.
Tou don't have anything of that. No one to worry
you — all on your own — leaping upwards to fame and
The student cleared his throat and drank some water.
Then in his steady voice he said:
" Will you tell me precisely what you mean by suc-
cess, Mr. — er ? "
Mr. Burwell looked annoyed. Danm these foreign-
ers ! He waved his hand contemptuously.
" Success ? Why, success is getting on, making
money, getting talked about, of course. What else do
you suppose ? "
Edgar nodded and smiled indulgently at the boy.
SUCCESS HAS ITS PRICE 167
*' How would you define success, Herr Freitel ? "
The young musician blinked and looked timidly at
Laura as though for support. Then he lowered his
eyes and pinched a piece of bread into a pellet.
" Success ? ... It is to know one's heart when one
is alone on the mountain-tops."
There was an uncomfortable pause, shattered by a
rude guffaw from Mr. Burwell. It was Mary who
saved the situation.
"I think Herr Freitel's is much the nicer defini-
tion," she said, smiling.
" Are we to have coffee in the other room, my dear ? "
Edgar almost yawned, and rose to fetch the cigars.
After dinner we seemed to fall away into groups.
The drawing-room appeared too large for our small
company. On an ebony stand by the piano was a large
gilt* basket filled with pink roses arranged in festoons.
In had been presented to Laura two days before by
some influential person in Birmingham. We gathered
" Isn't it a shame I " Laura remarked. ^* They only
gave it me two days ago, and the roses are already be-
ginning to die."
Freitel murmured something. I caught the word
"Well, of course, they're wired," exclaimed Mr.
Burwell. " They never last when they're wired."
Mrs. Burwell exploded : " Oh, Henry always knows
about anything to do with — he, he, he, he I "
Her husband barked, his way to the most comforta-
ble chair, and Edgar stood with his back to the fireplace
and talked to him. Laura and Freitel whispered over
a pile of music. Mary and I tried to prevent Mrs.
Burwell from having a fit of hysterics because of some
incident she was trying to tell us about a bishop losing
his overcoat at a flower-show. The atmosphere of the
158 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
room seemed charged with an ahnost unbearable sense
of nervous tension. I donH know how long this went
on before Mr. Burwell bawled across the room:
" Won't you play us a piece, Mrs. Beyfus ? "
Laura did not look at him. She replied curtly:
" No, I'm not playing any ' pieces ' to-night. But
Herr Freitel is good enough to say that he will play
We all gave that murmur of approval which is ex-
pected of a company at such an announcement. Herr
Ereitel sat down at the piano.
I am no great judge of music, but I do not think I
have ever heard the piano sound so beautiful. All the
academic, dogmatic exterior of the man seemed to van-
ish. He became a poet. This academic side was
probably busy with the technique, but it was too care-
fully concealed for me to detect. He played the
Schubert Impromptu and two small pieces of
Schumann's. His playing moved me tremendously.
Laura sat in the window-seat alone, with her head
averted. She was frowning, and her face looked old.
My eye wandered from her to the gilt basket of flowers
..." already dying."
" Laura either loves this boy or she is jealous of
him," I suddenly thought.
Laura, whose name was a household word in several
countries, jealous of an unknown student ! And yet I
could not believe that it could be the other thing.
Laura must be thirty-five ; the boy was uncouth, short-
sighted — to me physically repellent. But still he
went on, and I didn't want him to stop. He was alone
on the mountain-tops, knowing his heart Whilst
Laura's flowers were dying, and her "manager'* was
standing on the hearth-rug, talking to a rich accomplice.
SUCCESS HAS ITS PKICE 159
Yes, I could understand that. Success has its price,
Henry, A topsy-turvy and difficult world. Mr. Bur-
well's uncle and Laura had both set out to chase the
braggart down the hill, and having started to run —
they could not stop! At that moment I even felt sorry
for poor old Uncle Burwell, A long struggling, nagging
life, sweating people and bullying and being bullied,
bartering, bargaining, scheming, looking ahead, and
afraid to look away in case someone snatched the bauble
from his hand. On he rushes, tripping and skipping
over the boulders. The will-o'-the-wisp is here, there,
and everywhere. Then suddenly a crater opens under
his feet. It is too late. In that concentrated moment
as he hurtles through space he realises that all that he
has struggled for is a chimera. The products of his
toil merely serve to supply a braggart nephew with the
wherewithal to laze and slay.
"Laura could not play like this. She has lost it."
I knew that was true. Where was Laura rushing
to ? She was far, far more brilliant than Herr Freitel,
but she was not alone upon the mountain-tops. She
was rushing down the hill, chasing the braggart. Her
heart was freezing. She was afraid. What was she
giving to the uplifting of our common life? When
the flowers were dead, and the gilt basket buried in an
attic, the press-notices forgotten, what then?- . . . One
must know one's own heart. There is something bigger
than what we call Success.
I have an idea that there was some scheme for in-
ducing Mr. Burwell to put money into Edgar's business.
When Freitel had finished playing Edgar came over
and said to Laura :
" I wish you would play, dear^ Mr. Burwell is very
Laura bit her lip, and snapped out :
" No, I'm not going to play to-night"
160 ONE AFTEK ANOTHER
One had only to know Laura, and to hear her say
that, to recognise that the decision was absolutely final.
Edgar knew it too. He made no comment, but I ob-
served a slow, malevolent look creep at the back of
his eyes. He shrugged his shoulders and returned to
the fireplace. The maids brought in trays, and decan-
ters and glass pitchers of lemonade. Blue smoke
drifted about the room,
" We had a screamin^ time in Cape Town. Do you
know what Henry did one night in the Victoria ? — he,
he, he, he I **
Mary was politely attentive. Laura suddenly came
over and pinched my arm. Dark rings encircled her
eyes. She said nothing, but I knew she wanted to
speak to me outside. I followed her into the hall,
and across the passage into a little boudoir. She shut
She stood swaying in the middle of the room, her
face buried in her hands.
"What's the matter, old girl?"
She could not speak for some moments. Then she
said suddenly :
" Oh, Tom, take me away from here . . . take me
home with you."
Some awful climax had come. I felt no call to ques-
tion her. I simply knew that she was desperately
" Of course you can come, Laura, but "
" It's nothing to do with Freitel. Don't think that.
And yet it is, in a way. When he began to play . . .
Oh, Tom, I've lost it all. You make me madly jealous,
you and Mary. I'm slipping down, slipping . . .
SUCCESS HAS ITS PRICE 161
"Fm his bond-woman. Can't you see? Oh, of
course I love him. But we are going on together slip-
ping down. I sometimes think I hate him, and then he
comes and puts his arms around me, and I am help-
less. • . . That disgusting episode about the fiddle —
that was the beginning. One thing leads to another,
and you can't stop. You go down and down, Tom.
Whatever I do I know I can't get back. Oh, let me
steal back with you. ... I would like to take Made-
line away with me to some cottage right away in the
country, where no one knows me . • . where there's just
an old piano, and wild flowers, and simple people. I
want to start again."
"You're unstrung, old girl. Of course we could
arrange it, but hardly to-night, suddenly like this "
"Yes, yes, I want to go to-night. If he suspects
me, he won't let me go. I have no power when he
• . • Oh, Tom, let us creep away at once."
" Write a note and pin it on her cloak."
"Laura, my dear, it's not workable. Edgar will
know. He'll simply follow and fetch you back."
" No. I shall tell him I have gone up to the moun-
tain-tops for a time — any old lie. I shall come back
to him, of course. I know that's inevitable. He is
my fate, the partner I have chosen for this dance of
fame. But to-night I am suffocated. I want to be
free. Please, old boy."
I thought the matter over. A thousand difficulties
presented themselves. Why must Laura always do
these abrupt and disturbing things? I required an
hour to think the matter over, and here she was tugging
at my arm. If she could only be reasonable and wait
till to-morrow I It would be quite a natural thing for
her to come and stay with us, or to take Madeline to
a cottage in the country for a few days. But to-
1«2 OlfE AFTEK ANOTHER
night — like this, with an inadequate explanation, in a
gorgeous frock of old gold and jade, as though she
was fleeing from a sudden threat. Edgar would natu-
rally suspect Freitel. Visions of duels, and broken
heads, and scandal, and police-court scenes flashed
through my mind. At the same time, Laura was un-
happy . • . desperate. She might do something even
more — unbalanced. I picked up a sheet of paper and
scribbled : " I am taking Laura home to stay the night
with us. Will send the cab back for you in half an
hour. Tell Edgar she will be back to-morrow."
I pinned this on Mary's cloak and we went out into
the hall. Laura put on a fur coat and feverishly
twisted a shawl round her head. Just as we reached
the hall, the drawing-room door clicked open. Freitel
came out of the room, followed by Edgar. Freitel
" I trust that my departure does not seem pre-
cipitate, ill-mannered. I find that late hours are
detrimental to my work. Will you convey my
Edgar did not see me at first. He was leading
Freitel to the cloak-cupboard. He appeared quite sat-
isfied with the sudden departure of this guest. Then
he looked along the hall and observed Laura standing
there in her coat and shawl . . . waiting. For the
fraction of a second he started. Then he said in his
purry voice :
" Hullo, dear ! Where are you going? "
I thought Laura was going to faint. She held on
to the handle of the door.
" Oh," she exclaimed jerkily, " Tom and I . • .
Tom and I . . . were just going out . . . for a stroll.
The room is so warm. We "
And yet she did not move. Freitel was helped into
his coat. He made a pretty apology to Laura and
SUCCESS HAS ITS PKICE 163
kissed her hand. He brought his heels together and
bowed to us all and took his departure. We all stood
there in an embarrassed silence at the open door,
listening to the clumsy beat of Freitel's heavy boots as
he marched downstairs. They squeaked a little. A
party of people came out of the flat opposite, laughing
and talking. An old gentleman in evening dress rang
the bell for the lift, exclaiming as he did so:
" Eeally, now, really ! . . . that's too bad I "
Edgar closed the door. With a caressing, insinuat-
ing movement he put his arms round from behind and
gently released her shawl.
" I don't think I should go out to-night, dear," he
said. " There is an east wind. It is very late. And
— the Burwells might not understand. They are not
yet accustomed to the — ways of artists. . . . There,
there ; now let us go back to the drawing-room."
The following night I paid one of my periodical
visits to " The Duchess of Pless." I found father and
Uncle Stephen in the little room at the back of the
bar. They both seemed in very good spirits. Uncle
Stephen was smoking a churchwarden, a form of pipe
which no one could possibly enjoy, but which gives a
good picturesque, sporting appearance to a man. They
are now only smoked by 'Varsity undergraduates, who
are always willing to suffer for a romantic pose.
Uncle Stephen was in one of his hard-headed, genially
oppressive moods. He called out :
" Hullo, Tom ! How are you getting on ? "
. I gave him some of the details of my new venture
with Jevons, and he replied:
" Well, it's about time you began to bring off some-
164 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
thing, old boy. You'll never be a success like your
sister, unless you start doing something big soon."
I answered that I was afraid I wasn't so clever as
Laura. Indeed, I had no special ability for anything.
Laura was a genius.
" Yes, but look here, my lad," he replied, " you
don't have to be a genius to get on. Work, industry,
ambition — that's the ticket. I know a man who's a
perfect fool, and he's earning six thousand a year,"
" Will you have a drink, Tom ? " said my father.
" Oh, thanks, dad. . . . Could I have a brandy-and-
"Never drink spirits, my lad," exclaimed Uncle
Stephen. " Spirits are the curse. Beer will do you
no harm, wine will do you no harm, but spirits eat up
the vitals. Never touch thenu"
" What are you drinking, uncle ? "
" Whisky-and-water, my boy."
We all laughed. It seemed gay and simple in the
little parlour. Father asked after Laura, and I told
him that we had been dining there the previous
"Oh, la, la!" he broke in. "Yes, I know. I
dined there one evening. I wasn't invited to meet any-
one, mind you. But we dined, you know. All sorts
of little faked-up dishes, and Frexwh wines. Not for
me. Give me a cut from tiie joint and two vegetables
and a tankard of ale, any day in the week. But still
— there it is. That's Laura. It's her affair, not
" Anything more been heard of the Cuban assassin,
"No; I think he must have left the country."
We sat talking for some time, and Uncle Stephen
had several glasses of the stuff which eats up the vitals.
We tods our departure at the same time, and as the
SUCCESS HAS ITS PKICE 166
night was fine, we decided to walk as far as Portland
Boad station together.
We talked about various matters, when suddenly
Uncle Stephen said:
" I don't mind telling you, Tom, that your father's
very relieved that you hardly drink at all. He was
very worried about you at one time."
"Worried about me! But I never showed any dis-
" It's not that. Didn't he ever keep on at you that
he didn't want you in the licensing trade ? "
" Yes, he did. But why "
"You've got to have great strength of character to
keep your head in the licensing trade — like he has
himself. He thought you might be — you looked rather
like it — one of tibe weak, poetical, easily-led people,
" Well, perhaps I am still."
"Yes, but you didn't show the predisposition.
When he found you hadn't got it, he didn't mind offer-
ing you a glass now and then. Moderation's all
" I still don't quite see."
Uncle Stephen stopped by a lamp-post and gripped
the lapel of my coat.
"You don't see, because you don't know, old boy."
"What don't I know?"
" You don't know about — your mother."
" What about my mother ? "
" She was something like you and something like
Laura. She used to be all over the shop, you know;
you didn't know which way she was going to jump.
Full of ginger, like a three-year-old; very fiery,
touchy — a good woman, though, boy. She was a good
woman, until she started — well, you know, your
father dreaded that you might inherit her taste ^"
166 ONE AFTEK ANOTHER
"What did she start?"
" Drink, of course."
"Do you mean to say that my mother drank, that
she drank herself to ^"
" It certainly hastened her end, old boy."
THAT WHICH IB ALWAYS CHANGING IN MK
THERE comes an exact instance in htunan
stress — whether of pain or pleasure —
when things must either snap or recreate
themselves. There came such an instant to me -one
day when I was polishing a brass bedpan in the base-
ment of the antique-and-curio shop which Jevons and
I had started after the failure of our scene-painting
venture. I trust you to suspect my capacity for suf-
fering. At the same time I do not see why you should
suffer with me. You, too . . . you doubtless have felt
the unbearable wrack when there seems no escape,
when even death offers no solution, when you are
cabined between the narrow walls of your material
existence, the flames of sentimental association eter-
nally licking your heart and blood. The empty days,
the empty nights, the bleak years stretching out before
you; nothing but dreariness, hopelessness, and that
ever-present gnawing vacancy. I do not want to tell
you of my sufferings, because if you have not experi-
enced them, believe me, you are born to them. They
are our heritage, and I have nothing to offer you except
my kindred understanding. I think it was only Made-
line who kept me sane. Madeline, and a few surpris-
ing people who forced me to weep by their unexpected
quickness of sympathy. ... I remember Jingle com-
ing, and the tears streamed down his battered face.
168 ONE AFTEK ANOTHER
BJow could I tell Madeline that Mummy had left us
and that we should never see her again? One day,
in a state of despair, I drew for her a picture of us three
all meeting again in some elaborate paradise. And I
hated myself for doing it, for I did not believe it at
all. I do not believe this aspect of human love to be
a permanent factor in evolution. Everything changes.
That which we call Shakespeare, or Lincoln, or Glad-
stone must have gone on and by now be something en-
tirely different. And it is well it should be so. I
rejoice to think that Shakespeare as a man is quite
extinct. It makes the universe seem less stuffy. I
don^t want to be bunged up with my grandmother and
my grandchildren. Let them, too, rejoice in this real-
isation of the eternal flux. The brass bedpan glowed
like silver under the influence of my rubbing.
" Some snuffy old fool probably warmed his bed with
this a century ago. Thank God he is dead ! Even the
art of warming a bed with a brass pan has died out.
No one will ever do it again. We hang it on our walls
as a sentimental relic."
This is my great enemy — sentimentality, going
back. In the early months of the struggle I realised
that I should have to be ruthless with this enemy, or
he would kill me. When Jevons mooted the idea of tiie
antique shop I helped him by stocking it with every
scrap of antique furniture which Mary and I had col-
lected. I asked him to sell it for whatever he could
get for it while I was away, and I started out for Italy.
When I had spent a week in Verona I realised that it
was the worst thing I could have done. Italy was sim-
ply Mary, and nothing but Mary. . . . We had
planned so often to go there "later on." ... I re-
turned suddenly. Jevons had not sold the furniture.
I snapped down some shutter in my mind and helped
him.- I even haggled with people over the price. I
THAT WHICH IS ALWAYS OHANQINQ 169
polished brass as it had never been polished before.
• • • looking back on it^ I am aware that my behaviour
may seem to you cowardly, even disloyal. It possibly
waa. I can only state just what I did. Please re-
member that I was in a desperate comer, fighting this
thing, and I wanted to come out whole, for Madeline's
Father su^ested that I should go back and live at
" The Duchess of Pless." Laura wanted us both to
go and live with her. Both of these offers I rejected.
They would have entailed a state of going back, and the
essential thing was to go on, keep on doing things,
Jevons was a delightful person, with whom I got on
admirably. He was a thin, aesthetic, impatient, lan-
tern-jawed young man, very gentle in his manners,
but quick and sympathetic, with a profound knowledge
of the antique, and a useful knowledge of values.
However, he hated selling anything which he liked
very much. He would hop around the little shop
like a bird. (He had a club-foot.) Suddenly he
would pull himself up, and gazing for a long time at a
piece of majolica, with his head on one side, he would
" Oh, Tom . . . that's too beautiful. I know some
swine will buy it."
I had very little knowledge of the antique, and it is
surprising that in spite of the rather temperamental
way we conducted the business, it paid fairly well. I
kept on the little house in St. John's Wood, only rear-
ranging the rooms. Our bedroom was now Madeline's.
The drawing-room was the dining-room, and vice versa.
New furniture was placed where furniture had never
170 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
been before. I secured the services of an admirable
wixnan^ named Mrs. Whittle, who acted as caretaker
and looked after Madeline. Madeline was now twelve,
a difficult age. She tortured me with her likeness to
Mary, but she was too young to be a companion for
any length of time. I loved to have her, and to talk
to her, and to bring her presents, to feel her arms
around my neck; then suddenly she would make me
impatient. I had been spoilt, perhaps. With Made-
line I had to give all the time, and I had become accus-
tomed to receive so much. I never went down to Wood-
stack. I simply could not do it. The evenings were
the worst time, when Madeline had gone to bed.
Sometimes I went back to the shop, or studied some book
on pewter or glass. Whatever I did had to be hard,
teclmical. I could not read fiction, or listen to music,
or go to a play. The newspapers brought a lump in
my throat I dare only think about practical affairs.
Jevons said he thought I was a very good business man.
I believe I must have been, at that time. I developed
a fund of driving power. I studied carpentry and up-
holstery, and did many of our own repairs and restora-
tions. On the night I have mentioned I was alone in
the basement Jevons had gone for the day. A
November iog had filtered its way down the narrow
staircase and hung in little drifts, revealed by the
flare of the incandescent gas. All around the room
were stray pieces of furniture, brass and crockery,
some broken, some awaiting adjustment or polish.
A mouse scuttled across the floor. I felt a quiet
glow of satisfaction as I regarded my over-polished
" Jevons will be pleased, to-morrow,*' I thought ; and
then, " What an ass I am ! The fog will undo all my
labours." And still I went on polishing. All sorts of
thoughts jumbled through my mind. One was :
THAT WHICH IS ALWAYS CHANGING 171
" Suffering is good for the soul."
I had heard that often — quite a trite saying, but
somehow very true. Was my soul — whatever it was
— hardening, being made a finer thing by what I was
enduring? Was I becoming a bigger man, a stronger
personality? If it were so ... a sudden vision of
infinite possibilities presented themselves. I felt a
kind of pride. One digs down and finds powers.
Suffering is a stimulus, a creator. Up to fifteen
months ago I did not know what suffering was. My
life had been a pleasant drift. If I could harden a
little like this, why could I not do more? I did not
mean to be . . . successful in Laura's sense^ but to
be somehow successful in myself. To contribute some-
thing to life, to leave something of myself behind. Men
die, ideas go on. Everything changes. Laura, with
her reclamej and her bouquets, and her expensive din-
ners, had not grasped the true significance of change.
Aided by Edgar, she was failing . . . failing all the
time, in the glare of lighted halls and the plaudits of
a mob. Suddenly in that little room I seemed to re-
alise it alL Everything curves, and therefore changes.
That which we take to be i|tatic is only a breathing-
space in a moving episode. That which we take to
be established is only the dust in a new cycle of vi-
brations. Life is only a temporary arrangement; in-
complete, indefinite. As I shape the change in me,
do I become in touch with God? God is not power,
or love, or beauty, but that which is always changing
in me. Even in the short span of my life I am a
hundred people, driven by hereditary taints and im-
pulses, linked by sentient episodes, loosely wrapped in
an amorphous and unreliable material called memory.
Yesterday I was a small boy putting flies in a spider's
web in my father's garden. To-morrow I may be
Leonardo da Vinci planning the fortifications of Flor-
172 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
eDoe. I change because God changes. When I con-
fine myself to material things I am obstructing the
natural sweep of the curve. The eternal question kept
raging round my heart :
** Where is Mary at this instant!"
But I mustn't think of it in this way. It doesn't
happen like that I must dig about inside. My life
is like the reflection of a star bobbing up and down on
the dark waters of a trackless sea. These other parti-
cles are reflections^ as I am. We meet and mingle and
twinkle and ogle each other in our passage, and one
after another we pass away. But somewhere away up
there in the heavens is that real star which is ourselves,
a thing incomprehensible and permanent and yet which
is always changing. One must learn to be proud, so proud
that one will not demand the thousand and one little
appearances of stability. It is the stumbling-block of
our faith — that we are always striving to establish
permanent combinations. We want to found a race, a
family, a religion or union, and to say, '^ This is it.
This shall stand for all time. When the earth cracks
up it shall survive in some superior and more inde-
structible condition." We are cowards because we will
not face the fact of change. There is no evidence of
such a stagnation in the rulings of the Universe. Am
I to believe in the formula of a religion, when one after
another I have seen them come and go? Am I to be-
lieve in the dominance of a people, when one after
another I may read their story in the brief chronicles
of a book? Am I indeed to believe in the complete
" establishment of my own entity as a permanent record,
when I observe the ambit of its little circle fringed with
identical manifestations . . . bobbing up and down?
That's just all it is. All my life is bobbing up and
down. • • •
THAT WHICH IS ALWAYS CHANGING 178
The room grew chilly, but I felt no desire to move.
I believed that I was passing some important land-
mark. Powerful resolutions were forming in me. It
was imperative that I should focus this new aspect.
The intense realisation of the simple fact that every-
thing changes seemed to come to me in the light of a
revelation. It put everything in its place. One must
not expect too much of life, just what it gives and what
one gives to it, and nothing else at all. One must be
too proud to demand more. On the day of his death,
they say that Confucius went into his garden and said:
" The great monntam must crumble,
The strong beam must break,
And the wise man withers away like a plant.''
He threw no sops of " permanence ^^ to his disciples.
All other religions seemed to be founded on an implica-
tion that we were leading up to some perfect individual.
What this perfect individual was to do when he arrived
was not stated, but the hint was that everything would
become static. The people we happened to be loving at
that fateful moment would become our permanent pos-
session. " The dead shall rise from their graves " —
surely the most disgusting idea ever put forward ! If
the dead rise from their graves, the unborn are cast
into oblivion. Life reels backwards. The idea is
worthy of a people who desire to tabulate and card-index
every experience. They must see it in terms of a story
with a prolc^e and an epilogue. It must afterwards
be sat upon by the leading critic, and stowed away
among the archives of the museum of mammals. But
life is not like that. It is fluid. Christ and Buddha
are no more permanent than Mr. Timble discoursing
174 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
on funerals in the saloon-bar of ^^ The Duchess of
Therefore . . . how shall I live my life? In the
first place; I have to be so proud that I can face the
circumstance that Mary is gone from me for ever. Our
love is blinding and consuming, but some change has
occurred which we cannot control. She will always
be vivid to me, but every year, owing to the fortuitous
circumstance of her death and my life, she will become
slightly less vivid. Thirteen years ago I did not know
her. Thirteen years hence I shall not have forgotten
her, but I have got to face the fact that her hold on me
will be less vivid. Perhaps all human love is a fortui-
tous circumstance. It was only by chance I met
her. I might have met another woman and loved her
equally well. But no, no — I could not believe that.
But memory does fade. If memory survived eternally,
then indeed there might be justification for a belief in
hell. For this would predicate another static condi-
tion. Memory, with its fugitive adjustments, is the
merciful veil to the grim enactments of the first law.
It hides the anguish in the human heart which is al-
ways craving for perpetuity.
There must, then, be something else • . . soma
justification in our being, something greater than the
love of man and woman, of father and child, of brother
and sister. What was it that produced in me a sudden
moment of serenity as I was polishing the brass bed-
pan? I was working, truly, but work itself is not
enough. Why was I working ? Only to serve my own
ends. I had thought, " Jevons will be pleased.*^ I
was helping Jevons. Perhaps there was something in
that I was serving. Was the secret of it all — serv-
ice^ I do not know, but I was oddly conscious that at
that particular instant I experienced the only almost
happy thrill I had known for fifteen months. I had
THAT WHICH IS ALWAYS CHANGING 175
passed an invisible barrier. Esietenoe seemed po£h
I took off my overall and fetched my hat and coat.
It was past ten o'clock, and I was about to turn off
the light, when I heard someone rap on the door of the
" I expect it's the police," I thought, " to see if every-
thing is all right"
I left the light on, and went upstairs, where a dim
gas-jet was burning. I opened the door. A woman in
furs stumbled into my arms.
" Lemme come in, old boy," she said. It was Laura
I slipped the door to quietly, and put my arm round
" I wanna sit down," she gurgled.
"All right, old girl," I said. "Come downstairs.
It's a little warmer."
She hung heavily on my arm, and I had to save her
from falling down the narrow staircase. I tucked her
into a comfortable Chesterfield.
" F'you gottanything to drink ? " she asked.
I stroked her hands, and took off her hat, which was
balanced at a ridiculous angle.
" Laura," I whispered, " what's the trouble ? YouVe
been drinking. I've nothing here but water. I could
make you some tea."
" Oh, hell to tea ! Gimme some water."
" What is it ? " I said, fetching a glass and a pitcher.
" I've left that swine," she said thickly.
I cannot say that I was inordinately surprised.
Troubles in the Beyfus family had been working to a
head. Laura had threatened to do this several times
since the night of the Burwell dinner, and it was in-
176 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
evitable that she would eventually do it abruptly like
this. But it was deplorable that she should get drunL
" D'you know what's happened now, Tom ? Blast
him I how I hate that nxan ! "
" Tell me."
She began to say something; then she cried and I
could not stop her. When she had had a thoroughly
good cry, and drunk some more water, she seemed
calmer. She held a handkerchief over her eyes, and
"D'you know what he^s done? . . . Pm going to
have a baby."
The news startled me. They had been married six
years. She b^an to talk rapidly and incoherently.
" We always arranged we wouldn't No good to an
artist like me — muck up my career, too. He says it
was accident. ... I don't believe him. He ^"
"But, Laura ''
"Wass good of talking? You know everything,
don't you? — married man — I can say anything to
you, can't I? "
"Yes. But, Laura . . . how awful. But now, as
it's happened, why not ? "
"I'm too old, old boy. Too old. . • . Besides,
there's this American' tour in the spring. It's not
only that — everything about him. He's cruel. He's
a beast He does beastly things to me. No one could
ever imagine. And I can't help myself. You don't
know what I've been through. I don't want a child of
his, though God knows ^"
She cried again, and I soothed her forehead and
stared at her helplessly.
" You must come home with me, Laura, and we will
think out the best thing to do."
She clung to me.
" Tom, old boy, I know Fm a rotter. I'm drunk.
THAT WHICH IS ALWAYS CHANGING 177
I'm beastly drunk. You don't know it, but I've been
drinking for years, ever since I married that . . . No,
old boy, I daren't go home with you to-night. I'm not
good enough. With that kid of yours in the house
and everything. Lemme stay. Tommy. You've got
some rugs and things, I bet Any old thing; juzza
sleep it off. . . . I'm so tired, Tom. So damn sleepy."
She snuggled into the Chesterfield. I fetched some
curtains and any heavy material I could find. I piled
them on her and tucked her in.
" Poor old girl 1 '' I thought. " Poor old Laura ! "
She was already in a heavy sleep, breathing noisily.
What could I do ? I dare not stay the night with her.
Mrs. Whittle would be alarmed. I had been in to
dinner and told her I should be back about ten.
Madeline might wake up and ask for me. The light
would be burning in the hall. I put the tea-things
and some biscuits on a chair near Laura, and left a note
for her. I said I would be back at half-past eight in
the morning. I turned out the gas. My last impres-
sion as I did so was her black hair scattered in pro-
fusion over a piece of Italian damask, and just in the
background the bedpan upon which I had lavished so
much energy, gleaming like a watchful moon.
Poor Laura ! I locked up the shop, and made my
way out into the f eg.
Our shop was in Paddington Street, and it was
barely fif tefen minutes' walk to Plane Tree Road in the
ordinary way, but somewhere in the Edgware Eoad I
lost my way. The streets were nearly deserted.
Eventually I groped along a wall and arrived at Lord's
Cricket-ground. It was half-past eleven before I found
my house. The light was flickering dimly in the
178 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
hall. I opened the door and saw the fog rush past me.
How cheerless and deserted the little house had become !
I heard someone moving in the drawing-room. My
nerves, unstrung by the events of the evening, presaged
burglars. I shook with cold physical fear. But —
Madeline was sleeping in the room above. I gripped
my stick. A man came out into the halL It was
His throat was muffled up in a white scarf which em-
phasised the pallor of his cheeks. His eyes looked wild
and slightly bloodshot. He bore down upon me.
"Where is Laura?" he demanded. "She has left
me. She would come to you, I know. Where is she ? "
A sudden detestation of this man came over me. I
had not observed before how close together his eyes were.
His face was dirty with the fog. Without die smug
contentment of material comforts, and the grooming of
the cultivated citizen to mark it, it appeared a weak
and horrible mask. Here was I, broken in grief, half
a mile away Laura, drunk to insensibility through his
swinish behaviour, and all he was thinking of was —
himself. I felt it He had come to demand his rights,
his bond-woman. I flashed out:
" What the devil business is it of yours ? "
Across his face there crept a look of cunning and
amazement. I had shown him that I knew where
Laura was. At the same time he was surprised at the
ferocity of this negligible brother, who had always been
so tame and friendly. He shifted his ground a little.
" I'm sorry to trouble you, Tom. I'm very worried.
We had a little difference this evening. She swung out
of the flat and said she was never coming back. Natu-
rally I thought she would be here. If not, where would
she be — on such a night ? "
" I know nothing about her," I replied stoutly. He
looked at me, and I know he wanted to say that I was
THAT WHICH IS ALWAYS CHANGING 17»
lying. If he had, I should have struck him, and I
think he knew that. He sighed and muttered :
" It's very distressing."
" For you, or for her 1 "
" For both of us, Tom."
*' I can't help you. If Laura chooses to leave you,
it's her affair. There must be some reason."
Suddenly he shouted :
" If that man Freitel is in this "
"Hush!" I said. "This is my house. You may
wake up my child."
And I opened the door for him. As he hovered on
the step, I added:
" If Laura chooses to come and stay with me, you
must please understand that this house for you is —
out of bounds."
He gave me a quick look, and snapped :
" What has she been telling you ? "
"Nothing which reflects any credit upon either of
you," I answered enigmatically.
He glared at me, and the fcg swallowed him up.
"I donH mind him suspecting Freitel,'* I thought.
" But this other business . . ."
THE SEARCH FOB FBOPOBTIOK
AT half-past eight the next morning I found
Laura drinking tea. She appeared compara-
L tively fresh and cheerful. She rallied me
about our somewhat limited washing arrangements,
and said that the towel was a disgrace to both of us.
" I'm awfully sorry I was such a beast last night,
Tom/' she said.
She appeared to be very anxious to please me, and
she began examining all our stuffs and furniture. But
I could tell there was something at the back of her
mind she wanted to have settled. She suddenly re-
marked quite casually:
" I can't remember what I told you last night, Tom.
Did I explain "
" You said you had had a quarrel with Edgar, and
you weren't going back."
" Yes, yes, that's it. We are always quarrelling, you
know. He appears so calm, but he's got a beast of a
temper. And — well, there's no getting away from it,
he — to put it crudely — exploits me. I told you that,
" I didn't Did I say anything else ? "
I began to put on my overall.
"Oh, you didn't say much. You were awfully
squiffy, old girl . . . rather incoherent.'^
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
THE SEAECH FOR PROPORTION 181
She seemed relieved. I somehow could not hring
myself to remind her of what she had said.
" Can I come and stay with you as a p.g. ? Fortu-
nately I've got some money in the bank. I always kept
my own account going. It's the only clever thing Fve
"Of course you can come. You mustn't talk rot
" I don't know what vnll happen about my engage-
ments. He's my agent, you see. He'll muck every-
thing up if I desert him."
"You'll have to chance that. You are still deter-
mined not to go back ? "
" Worse than ever."
"Well, we must buckle to, and think of the best
thing to do."
Laura was masterful. At ten o'clock she called at
another agents' called Pealls, and got them to promise
to do what they could for her. Then she telephoned to
Lydia, the parlourmaid at the flat. Lydia said that
Mr. Beyfus had instructed her not to send away, or
allow to be taken, any of her mistress's frocks or prop-
erty. This was easily settled. Laura took over Lydia,
too. Lydia adored her. At three o'clock in the after-
noon, when Edgar was away at the office, a small van
arrived, and took away all Laura's property, including
frocks and jewellery, and even some of the furniture
which Laura said was hers; as well as the faithful
Lydia. The whole contents were deposited in my house
in St John's Wood. Madeline was thrilled with de-
light at this advent.
"Oh, Auntie Laura, how scrumptious! You must
stay for ever, and ever, and ever."
The house underwent a further transformation.
Laura's furniture adorned the most conspicuous places.
Madeline insisted on giving up " the " bedroom to her.
182 ONE AFTEB ANOTHER
The drawing-room became her musio-room. Ljdia
shared a room with Mrs. Whittle. We were all rather
congested. I expected another visit from Edgar, but
he did not come. He wrote a formal letter to Laura,
apparently under legal advice, and requested her to re-
turn to him. She replied, also under advice, and said
she could not see her way to accede to his request For
a few weeks the little house" almost assumed an air of
gaiety. Madeline and Laura were both gifted with that
quick instinct of recovery which characterises youth
and genius. Madeline was in higher spirits than she
had been for a very long time. Laura and I both
assumed an attitude of blustering joviality when we
met. We talked crisply above the surface of things.
We each had tragedies incommunicable to the other.
We were sorry for each other, but less intimate than in
the old days. Laura was right about her "agent."
Fealls informed her that the engagements secured for
her by Mr. Beyfus had not been confirmed. They could
get no satisfactory statement from him. Loeb she could
not go ta She had lost the kind of name that Loeb
handled. Between the two stools of the older societies
— the more serious musical ventures, represented by
Loeb, and the lighter, more popular undertakings of
Beyfus — her career seemed in danger of collapsing.
To my surprise she did not seem unduly distressed.
She was content with her freedom. She went for walks
with Madeline, and took her to matinees, played little
pieces to her, and discovered that she had musical
This reasonably-contented existence endured for
nearly three months, and then one evening when I ar-
rived home I found Madeline in tears.
THE SEAKCH FOR PROPORTION 188
" What is the matter, darling ? " I said, pressing
her to me.
" Auntie Laura won't teach me any more. I think
she is angry with me. Oo-oh ! "
Laura was out. She did not return till late, looking
pale and exhausted. When she had rested a little, I
" Madeline says you won't teach her any more."
She looked at me, and then turned away. She did
not speak for some time. At last she exclaimed in a
bitter voice :
"Oh, Tom, don't let the child get fond of music.
I knew it would be no good arguing with her. I
poked the fire, and thought the matter over. Then I
" Is anything wrong, old girl ? You seem down."
I could not get her to reply. She was inwardly
choking. I pressed her hands in mine, and said :
"It's a rotten old world, Laura, but we've got to
make the best of it. I'm trying to."
Suddenly Laura kissed me.
"I know. I know. You're an awful brick, Tom.
I think it's fine the way you've faced this thing. I
never thought you had the strength — but it's some-
how different with me. I suppose I haven't the stuff
to fall back on. I'm miserably weak, Tom. And now,
" What are you going to do, Laura ? "
"I'm going away for a time — some months, per-
haps. You're not to worry about me. I shall — be
" You're going away to play ? "
I could not ask her where. . . . The fire crackled in
18i ONE AFTER ANOTHER
the heartL A fine rain was beating against the win-
"You won't do anything — foolish, will you,
She replied with an almost inaudible "No." A
sudden wave of fear swept over me. I felt myself in
the presence of some disturbing menace. I wanted to
act, but my limbs were cold. I paced the room, and
lighted a cigarette, hoping to relieve the nervous ten-
sion. Then, steadying myself by the mantelshelf, I
" Laura, that night when you turned up at the shop
in Paddington Street . . . drunk . . . you told me
something. I knew afterwards you would be ashamed.
... It's no good pretending I don't know. . . . Prom-
ise me you won't be a fool . . ."
Laura jumped up, and her eyes flashed angrily.
" Oh, you . . . it's all right for you, you men. . . .
What business is it of yours? . . ."
" But, Laura, I only want to help "
" Oh, don't ! Don't talk to me."
She flashed across the room and disappeared.
A few days later Laura left us, and she would not
say where she was going. It was springtime, the most
trying time of the year. I felt it more than Madeline,
who was always being absorbed by some new and con-
suming interest. She made friends very easily and was
popular with the other girls in the school. I just went
on doing things, trying to keep the shutter of my mind
snapped-to against the vivid light of emotion. One
day Jevons came to me in a great state of excitement.
" You are a perfectly priceless old josser 1 " he said.
I could not make out what it was all about for some
THE SEAECH FOR PROPORTION 186
time. He kept on darting backwards and forwards
from the shop to a room at the back, where we kept our
" What made you buy all that old junk at the Bau-
ghan sale ? '' he asked at last
I had been down to a sale in Sussex a few days pre-
viously. They were selling up the effects of an old re-
cluse who had recently died and who had, apparently,
left no relatives.
" Do you mean the pictures or the pots ? "
" The pots are all right, of course, but — the pic-
tures ! There are seventeen of them — the most mixed
crowd Tve ever seen."
" I know. But they were sold as a lot. I rather
liked those two old prints of Lewes, and I thought some
of the others might be worth something. I know noth-
ing about pictures, as you know. I paid twenty-seven
pounds ten for the lot."
" Good Lord ! * Out of the mouths of babes and
sucklings ' " Jevons went back into the other
room. A customer entered. A dear old lady, who ad-
mired everything enormously, talked for twenty min-
utes, borrowed a piece of string, said she would consult
her husband, and then departed. When she had gone,
Jevons once more hopped back into the shop.
" Tom Purbeck," he said, " I believe you're the
greatest genius of the age. Tou are the coming
"Of course I am," I replied. "What about it?"
" Come with me."
We both went back to the inner room. Jevons had
spread the pictures all over the place. One fairly large
oil-painting was balanced on a chair. Jevons swept his
arm round in a circle and said :
" This lot are worth f ourpence. But just examine
this oil on the chair."
186 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
It was a dexterously-painted landscape, with cottages
and figures, and a mass of cold green foliage.
'^ I don't much like the damn thing/' I said.
" Perhaps you don't, you silly old gump ; but that's
not the point. Look at this signature in the corner.''
I examined it carefully, and deciphered the letters
" Well, who is he ? " I said. " I've never heard of
Jevons shouted with laughter.
" You are undoubtedly destined to end your days in
Bond Street and Park Lane I If this is a genuine
Ruysdael, and I have every reason to believe it is —
well, our shares will go up."
Ruysdael? Ruysdael? Oh, yes, of course. I re-
membered Ruysdael in the National Gallery. I never
liked him very much. The name had slipped my
" I expect it's a bally old fake," I said, feeling rather
ashamed of my stupidity.
" * Fools rush in where angek fear to tread.' You
leave the dealing of this to me."
I will not ask you to follow the immediate machina-
tions of Mr. Jevons. Odd, mysterious people called
and examined the picture. It was not even framed,
but Jevons soon remedied that. Negotiations went on
for six weeks. Someone was introduced to someone
else. Handsome commissions were offered all round.
At length a wizened old gentleman with snow-white
hair drove up in a large car. He looked ill and worried
and rather shabby. He asked petulantly to see the
Ruysdael. He never gave a glance at us or at any-
thing else in the place. He produced a horn-rimmed
microscope. He went all over the picture, muttering:
"Ah! um — um — yes — um — um."
Then he drove away.
THE SEARCH FOR PROPORTION 187
"That was old Bleatley, the millionaire and soap
king/' said Jevons, when he had gone. " He has the
finest collection of Buysdaels in the country. In the
course of time we shall hear whether he has bought it.
He always buys through Roder."
Three days later we heard that the picture was sold.
I do not to this day know how much old Mr. Bleatley
paid for it, but our share amounted to three thousand
two hundred pounds ! It seemed more wonderful than
the victory of " Baionnette."
It would be idle for me to claim any credit for the
surprising run of luck which favoured the house of
Jevons & Purbeck from that day. Neither do I think
that Jevons himself would wish to boast of his part.
To me there was something ironic in this twist of for-
tune. After all the years when we had been so in-
differently off . . . My mind was being constantly
bombarded by these disturbing reflections. ... "If
this had happened before ! — I could have done so-and-
so, and so-and-so."
I just hardened myself, and went on. I accepted the
good fortune without regret and without elation.
Jevons was always quicker at the uptake than I. It
was he who insisted on extending our premisies. And it
was he who eventually introduced a kind of fairy-god-
mother into our little premises. She was an elderly,
kind-faced person called Lady Stourport. Her hus-
band was Sir Andrew Stourport, a big man in the Glas-
gow shipping world. To Lady Stourport money
seemed to be of no consequence at all. I think she
liked us. Apart from liking us, we seemed to amuse
her. She had apparently never seen anything quite so
queer as ns in the part of the world she came from.
188 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
If she liked anything, she just bought it without asking
the price. It was a cruel thing to do. It left Jevons
and me arguing by the hour, after she had gone, as to
how much we could decently demand. I suppose I
inherited something of my father's instinct for the
" fair price." Jevons was in favour of charging fancy
sums. So we usually ended by a compromise of a fair
price plus about fifty per cent.
One day she came in, and after making one or two
purchases, she said :
" Now, Mr. Jevons, I have just bought an old house
at Richmond that wants entirely renovating and re-
decorating. Do you do that kind of work ? "
"Why, certainly we do, madam," promptly replied
Jevons. I gasped. Jevons must be going off his nut !
She gave him the address and a card to the agents.
" Whatever are you up to ? " I said when she had gone.
"We know nothing about decorating and renovating."
" My dear old mugwumps, it's as easy as falling off
a tree. We only have to go to several builders and get
estimates. We can sub-let the whole bally thing. A
lot of these swanky firms do that. They don't do a
I was astonished to find that Jevons was quite right.
Lady Stourport's house at Richmond was a stately
Georgian building in the precincts of the Park. It had
not been occupied for ten years. We reconstructed sev-
eral rooms, put in staircases, installed a new system of
lighting and heating, papered and painted and panelled.
We even launched out into landscape gardening, and
introduced fauns and females in marble. When it was
finished we began to fill it with antique furniture and
old masters. If we had been quite unscrupulous we
could have made a fortune out of Lady Stourport. On
the other hand, she might not have come to us. She
was by no means a fooL She thought we were two
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
THE SEAECH FOR PROPORTION 189
queer young men. She probably knew she was paying
more than necessary, but it did not matter very much
to her, and she had no great opinion of her own taste.
We took all the worry and responsibility off her shoul-
ders. I must say that, having once taken the plunge,
I took a delight in trying to make Belhampton House
as attractive as possible. I visited other old houses
of the same period and made innumerable notes and
sketches. I went to South Kensington Museimi and
looked up every book on the subject. I spent days in
the builder's office, planning with him the best arrange-
ments, and examining samples and patterns. My ex-
perience in the scene-painting profession was not en-
tirely wasted. When the work began I haunted the
place. I made the foreman explain to me every little
operation. I worried the poor man's life out. I dis-
covered imperfections, and ordered them to be done
again. I did not know very much about it, but I did
the very best I could. Jevons left me to grapple with
all these technicalities, whilst he instinctively looked
after the business side. I was happier than I had been
for a long time, not because we were making money,
but because I suddenly found a chance of serving a
Sometimes the thought occurred to me:
" Is there any real satisfaction in doing this — just
helping a rich and possibly selfish old woman ? "
A few moments' reflection told me that there was.
It was not as though she wanted something showy and
vulgar. She wanted the best. I was helping to shape
something — make something more beautiful. I had
never been attracted by the unsolvable problems of
social reform. Doubtless many people would say that
in my mood at that time I should have been better
advised to have worked among the poor, to have defi-
nitely pledged myself as a champion of moral rights.
190 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
That the only real satisfaction is a complete negation
of self, I should have lived entirely for others..
I can only say that I am not made that way. The
world appears to me more in need of fining down than
of bolstering up. I would always rather subscribe to a
spiritual idea than to a material advancement. At that
time I was convinced that it was far more important
for the cornice in Lady Stourport's drawing-room to be
the exact proportion than that some unfortunate crea-
ture should be prevented from drinking too much beer
or not eating enough bread. If the cornice was exactly
right it would be observed by thousands of people in
the course of time. The majority of them wouldn't
stop to think about it, but it would gradually impress
itself on their mind. They would get to feel that that
was the right and true proportion, and they would
notice when other cornices were not. In time a wrong
proportion would offend them. I was contributing
towards the evolution of a finer thrust of humanity —
towards a better appreciation of beauty, towards an
idea. On the other hand, if I gave bread to a starving
man, he would be hungry again to-morrow, or, expecting
my presence, he would make no attempt to get bread
for himself. I was not helping his ideas at all. In-
deed, I was rather contaminating them. If I arrested
the hand of the drunkard as he raised his glass to his
lips, and said, "Hold, my good fellow! Don't you
know that that is the way to damnation ? " he would
"Right, old sport! Have one with me.*'
And, being of a friendly disposition I should prob-
ably fall in with his request, and we would make a
merry evening of it. I don't say that I am right about
THE SEAKCH FOE PROPOKTION 191
these things. I only repeat that I am made that way.
I honour the people who think just the opposite.
I heard nothing from Laura all the summer, and her
name did not appear in any musical announcements.
At the beginning of September, however, I had a letter
from her — a most unusual attention. It ran :
" Deab old Tom,
" I have been most frightfully ill. I am now all
right again. I am leaving for the Pyrenees with Lucie
van Stael to-morrow. I expect to be away two months,
to recuperate. Heaps of love to you both. I am send-
ing Madeline a large parcel by this post. I shall come
and see you directly I get back.
" Your loving old fool of a sister,
She had been a fool, then! There was no address,
but the envelope was stamped ^^ Buxton." I had never
heard of Lucie van Stael.
It fell out rather fortunately that Madeline had made
great friends with two little girls in the neighbourhood.
Their mother was a charming Canadian woman named
Mrs. Maguire, and she invited Madeline to go ajid stay
with them at their cottage at Lulworth Cove for the
summer holidays. I was delighted for her to go. I
went down there myself for several week-ends, which I
conducted in a businesslike way. I always took some
work with me, and when not working I was bathing with
the children, or learning to manipulate a sailing-boat,
or discussing the question of education with Mrs.
One morning I discovered two streaks of grey hair
on either side of my temple.
" You're beginning to fade, old man," I thought to
myself; and the reflection produced in me no sense of
HOT A NICE THING TO HAVE HAPPENED
I LOOKED out of the window into the little garden.
Yellow and violet crocuses were forcing their way
through the earth. For March the day was warm
and sunny. Madeline was very busy. For a time I
, could not determine what she was doing. She had a
spade and a trowel and a ball of string. Then I
realised that she was planning a bed of standard roses.
Her movements were vigorous and concentrated. There
was something about the poise of her young body which
gave me a sudden feeling of surprise. Madeline was
growing up. She was no longer " just a kid." In a
few years she would be a woman, with all a woman's
potentialities and troubles. A disturbed sense of mis-
giving crept over me. Was I giving her all of myself
that I could ? Must not her life be rather cramped and
drab ? I wanted to go out into the garden and throw
my arms round her and kiss her. But I had schooled
myself to give way to these impulses as little as pos-
sible. I was somewhat restive concerning the emotions
in those days. Was I becoming too hard and set ? . . .
a solemn, dull, middle-aged father? The birds were
already active in the branches. The old cycle of this
age of re-birth had come round again. I opened the
window and called out:
She looked up at me with one of her quick smiles of
NOT A NICE THING TO HAPPEN 193
greeting. Her eyes were very alive; tiny lights seemed
to sparkle in their blue-grey depths. Her face was
square rather than oval, the eyes wide apart Light-
brown hair tumbled in little curves and sweeps around
her cheeks, that glowed with exercise. Her features
appeared small in detail but broad in effect. She was
lightly built but with the poise of an athlete rather than
a student. Her mother must have looked exactly like
that in the days before I knew her.
" What do you say to a day in the country ? " I said.
" Oh, ripping 1 I won't be a minute. I'll have to
wash. My hands are filthy."
" You must buck up. There's only one train that's
any good, and that goes in forty minutes."
" Right you are, daddy ! "
I believe she was very surprised at my sudden invi-
tation, but she gave no evidence of it. Going down in
the train she told me the details of two rival systems
of education, one — the proper one, of course — being
instituted by her beloved Miss Delarme at her own
school, the other by a " simply frantic old lunatic "
at a rival school at Hampstead. It was aU rather
complicated, and I'm afraid I did not follow it very
closely. I was looking at Madeline, her animated face
beneath the scarlet tam-o'-shanter, her plaid skirt,
brown gaiters and walking-stick, and I was thinking
" It won't do. It won't do at all — to shut every-
Madeline was not at all of a sentimental disposition.
She seemed to adjudge my outlook exactly, and to adapt
herself to it. We were a very sensible couple. I
found, moreover, that at this school of Miss Delarme's,
where she was being co-educated, an entirely novel atti-
tude towards life was presented. That is to say, it was
novel as far as I was concerned, but not novel to
194 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
Madeline. She accepted it as a matter of course. It
was all very, very diflFerent from the grammar-school
in Camden Town which Laura and I had attended.
These children — Madeline and her friends — seemed
somehow freer and more independent in thought and
action. Hero-worship apparently had died out. Noth-
ing cast a spell over them. At times this attitude
shocked me. You felt as though you could not impress
them. When Laura and I were at school someone had
only to mention Pitt, or Gordon, or Milton to put a
class into a kind of trance. But now they wanted to
know exactly all about these people, and what they did,
and why, and whether it couldn't have been done better.
They quentioned, and criticised, and modified, and qual-
ified. In eflFect, they were more concerned with ideas
than with individuals. Pitt was not a god, he was just
a competent politician, with many weaknesses, and who
made many blunders. What was Gordon doing in
Egypt, anyway? ^^Yes, I like the opening part of
* Paradise Lost,* but a lot of it is very dull.*'
What arc you to do with children like that ? When
I first came up against it, I confess it made me angry.
But after a time I realised that the eflFect it had on
Madeline was on the whole wonderfully beneficial. If
she had been a hero-worshipper like myself, she would
never have been able to withstand this great blow which
had come upon us with such fortitude. The blow struck
her as heavily as it did me, but after the first stunning
effect she immediately began to think rather than to
feel. And when the truth of this dawned upon me, I
knew that I was witnessing a definite human advance.
In my time we were encouraged to treat such a
catastrophe as a lifelong companion. We were encour-
NOT A NICE THING TO HAPPEN 196
aged to sustain it with every mark of recognition and
perpetual endurance. Madeline was as unselfish a child
as any I have known, as quick in her sympathies, as
loving, but after the first few months she made no
display at all of the grief which consumed her. She
thought furiously. I do not know what conclusions
she came to. After my rather futile attempt to portray
for her benefit a vision of St. John's Wood being per-
petuated in heaven, we did not discuss religion. We
were a little shy of each other. It took me a long time
to realise that I was learning more from her than she
was from me. Wordsworth has put this very clearly,
but there are remarkably few of us who accept it.
Everything that is of any value we learn from children.
They present us with the produce of our own experience.
On that Sunday I had a wonderful day with Mad-
eline, and we said nothing at all. That is to 9ay, we
said nothing that mattered. She chatted the whole
time, and I invented some fantastic stories for the fun
of watching her eyes light up. We tramped over the
hill beyond Wendover, and sat on a fallen log, and ate
our sandwiches. The great panorama of the Vale of
Aylesbury lay before it, and we discussed its topog-
raphy, and argued as to the pace of a tiny train puffing
miles away below us. We were remarkably " sensible."
We even discussed the site for a house I was to build
the following year, its plan, and necessary accommoda-
tion, and garden.
" I don't think I'd like to live in the country all the
year," said Madeline. " I like people.*'
Very well ; then we would have a week-end cottage,
and a motor-car, and still keep on the house in St.
John's Wood; or perhaps have a flat nearer in town.
I, too, like people.
" Are you going to make a lot of money, daddy ? "
" Heaps and heaps."
196 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
"Oh, how fine! WeU, Td like to ''
" What would you like to do, Midge ? "
"I'd like to have a good time, of ooursa But
there's lots of things "
"What sort of things?"
" Oh, I don't know. I'd like to spend it aU, not just
on that, but on — well, you know, science, and helping
people to find out things. Wouldn't you ? "
" Of coursa That would be fine. Woidd you like
to help poor people ? "
" Yes . . • but I think if you can help people to find
out things, perhaps there needn't be any poor."
"No, perhaps not. We must think about that a
"Elspeth and Dolly Maguire are going back to
Canada next year. They wanted me to go and stay
with them. Do you think I could, daddy ? "
"Go to Canada and leave . . . Why, yes; why
" I would love to travel heaps. I'd like to see Amer-
ica, and India, and China, and Japan. I'd like to go
to those islands in the South Pacific — you know,
Samoa, the Cook Islands, Solomon Islands."
" What makes you think of them ? "
"We've been having them at school. And there's
Robert Louis Stevenson who writes scrumptiously about
" Do you have him too? "
" Of course. Have you read * Treasure Island ' ? "
Good Lord! How ignorant I ami I glance at
Madeline's face, all glowing with the walk. She is
fourteen. Talking geography, Robert Louis Stevenson,
helping people to find out things. What were Laura
and I taught at fourteen? What ages ago I I could
not remember. I squeezed her arm.
" You want to be a pirate, I can see."
NOT A KLCE THING TO HAPPEN 197
" Only for ^ tima Not a permanent pirate. Just
long enough to see what it's like, and then come back
where all the people are that you — that understand
you, and then tell them all about it''
" Write it up, you mean ? "
" Yes, or paint it."
" That would be a good idea.''
" It doesn't matter what you do so long as you give
I was about to say, " What do you mean, my child ? "
and then I saw. I blushed in a kind of confusion. I
seemed to see in that instant why I had never been an
artist, why Laura had never been quite an artist, why
Kadic had been one, and why Madeline might be. It is
to be moved by something so profound that your only
idea is to give it out of yourself.
"I take off my hat to Miss Delarme," I thought.
^' My education is just beginning."
We arrived home in time for a very late tea in which
boiled eggs played a conspicuous part Madeline was
ravenous. After tea the Maguires paid us a visit, and
we played a game called " Uncle's in it ! " a game
played with towels and cushions, of which I have now
forgotten the rules. It seemed to have been specially
designed to make me look a silly old fool, but the chil-
dren enjoyed it immensely, and Mrs. Maguire said she
had no idea I could be such a comedian. About seven
o'clock Mrs. Whittle came in and announced that a
lady bad called to see me, and said she would rather
not give a name. I went out into the hall. In the dim
light I observed a middle-aged, actressy-looking woman,
rather floridly over-dressed* She smiled and held out
198 ONE AFTEE ANOTHER
"Mr. Tom Purbeck?''
I shook hands automatically^ and murmured:
" I'm afraid I — er — haven't the "
" My name is Lucie van Stael."
" Oh I . . . Oh, yes, a friend of Laura's. Will you
come into the study ? "
She laughed familiarly, and looked round the room.
" What a ducky little house! I've heard all about
you, and Madeline, of course. Laura is always talking
about you. Sweet ! Perfectly sweet ! Where did you
get that dear little escritoire ? "
" As a matter of fact, it belongs to Laura. Won't
you sit down ? "
" Oh, thank you so much. I must really apologise
for calling like this. The dear child was so anxious.
It was her last injunction : ' Now mini you go and see
Tom at once. ' "
" I haven't seen Laura for over a year."
" Isn't it dreadful how time flies ! My poor husband
used to say — he was an American, you know ; he died
at the age of thirty-seven, after making a fortune in
twelve years — he used to say — now, let me see : what
was it? — Ah, yes! You can make money but you
can't make time. Ha, ha, ha ! "
I felt that I disliked this woman intensely. I broke
" Have you any message for me from Laura ? "
" She has been so harassed, so tried, poor child, it is
quite difficult for me to take up the threads. I am not
sure Ik»w far tlie position had developed when she last
wrote to you. She was emphatic on the point that an
interview is so much better than laboured correspond-
ence. Don't you agree with me? One may so easily
misunderstand in a letter, but in talking you can clear
up every point There is, of course, the difiBculty of
your f aUier."
NOT A NICE THING TO HAPPEN 199
" I^m afraid I donH quite follow. What is the diffi-
culty about my father ? '^
" From a distance it is so difficult to judge. One is
apt to make harsh distinctions ... if one doesn't
foresee all the eventualities. You see, the marquis
comes of one of the best families. But he is so much
more than that. He is a hon enfant, serious, an in-
tellectual indeed. There is no case of ^'
" Excuse me, what marquis do you refer to ? '^
" Why, the Marquis de Thor Bohunville, of course.
It is all quite convendble. It is only the preliminaries
that are a little difficult of arrangement. You see, it
is necessary to take the decisive step in order to secure
freedom. The dear child is so convinced that you will
entirely appreciate her position. But I think that she
worries a little about the opinion of the father. If it
should appear in the newspapers first ! . . . You know
what they are — scurrilous! And then, a title.
There is almost sure to be ^^
" But what do you mean? Is Laura going to marry
this marquis ? "
" When she has secured her freedom. That is why
she thought that an interview would be more satisfying
to you than — anything else. One can so easily mis-
judge. The elegant suite of apartments which — they
occupy at St. Jean de Luz, and you, as an artist, I
assure you ^^
I jumped up.
" Do you mean to say,'^ I exclaimed, " that Laura ijs
already . . . that she is living with this ^^
'^ A most admirable and distinguished inan, destined
for the Academic. Nothing, I assure you, the least
intriguant. You will appreciate the fact that these are
mere formalities. The law demands such."
I glanced at this woman as though I held her re-
sponsible, as so, indeed, to a certain extent, she was.
200 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
** How do you know that Beyfus will divorce her? *'
" It almost goes without saying. He will b6 given
every encouragement and assistance. To be happy it is
necessary sometimes to take risks, to act contrary to
one's principles. But the poor child is distressed that
you should think — uncharitably of her, not completely
understanding all the circumstances, not appreciating
how admirable and well-intentioned is the other parti,
quite removed from what one might expect. She is
anxious that you should do your best ... to make the
information as acceptable to your father as . . . In-
deed, the child loves you both very dearly and she
would not cause you unnecessary distress. She
Damn Laura! Why must she always do these
On the very day when life appeared to be holding out
to me some semblance of gladness, when I detected
within myself the slow dawning of reviving hopes, when
I began to see through the eyes of Madeline, and realise
that here was something " worth while " — this frowsy,
foreign blockhead comes butting in with this corroding
counterblast from Laura, announcing what amounts to
be an acknowledgment that she has been seduced by a
French marquis, who is keeping her in an "elegant
apartment " at St. Jean de Luz ! And, forsooth, I am
to go and break it to my father ! I am to go to " The
Duchess of Pless " and convince him that it is all quite
all right That the marquis is " well-intentioned " and
" distinguished," That what they have done is a mere
formality. He means to marry the girl. Madame la
Marquise de Thor Bohunville! Of course. Admir-
NOT A NICE THING TO HAPPEN 201
Probably a drunken old roue, who will throw her in
the gutter at the first opportunity.
" How old is this man ? " I snapped.
^'Monsieur le marquis i . . . Quite yoting; indeed,
a little younger than Laura."
Very well, then; probably a young rcme and cafe-
lounger ; an adventurer. Just as bad.
"Ah! I wish I could impress you: I see you are
sceptical. Mister Tom. I assure you he is in every way
bon enfant. He is quiet, reserved, studious, good-
tempered, charming. And he adores her. . . . My
God, how he adores her ! "
I don't know what made me, but I got up and
laughed bitterly. She looked at me without malice.
Indeed, she smiled coyly and also rose.
" Dear Mister Tom, you must not take this too much
to heart. I promise you there will be no cause for
regrets. I can almost call you brother Tom. Do let
me see dear Madeline before I go."
I felt a keen antipathy to the idea of this woman
meeting Madeline. Madeline belonged to me. I
would not have her even run the risk of being examined
by this creature of ill-omen, who seemed to carry in her
person the essence of cabarets and casinos and the ante-
chambers of decadent aristocrats. I answered off-
" Oh, Madeline has gone to bed. She's not very
well. She's very tired."
It might have been a satisfactory explanation if the
door had not at that moment opened with a bang, and
a face glowing with animation had not been thrust into
"Daddy! Oh! . . . Pm sorry." *
She was about to withdraw, when my surprising vis-
itor threw out her arms and exclaimed :
"Madeline! Madeline! Oh, isn'jb she sweet!
202 ONE AFTER AlfOTHER
Dear child, let me look at you. I am a very old friend
of your Auntie Laura's/'
Madeline found herself effusively embraced. Her
face was a study. At the mention of Auntie Laura
it lighted up with interest It was bewildered by the
embrace, but straining to be gracious. It wanted to be
polite, but plainly showed it didn't approve of the
visitor. At the same time it was determined ta hear
about Auntie Laura.
" Where is she ? Is she coming ? "
" Not yet, my dear. Mercy, what a pretty girl you
are I What lovely hair ! "
*' Where is Aunt Laura ? "
" She is in France, my darling.''
*' Is she playing?"
" Not just now, dear."
This was a drastic method of cross-examination.' I
dreaded what might be said. So I interrupted with:
" She's been having a long holiday — travelling
about, and staying with friends, dear."
Madeline looked dubious, but she held out her hand
and said primly:
" Give her my love if you see her again-"
I could not help laughing. It was so formal and
old-fashioned, and it also implied that the visitor was
dismissed, or in any case that her presence was no
longer desirable. Lucie van Stael looked a little an-
noyed, and I could not help being impressed by the fact
that, whereas I had been pointedly rude to her and had
been caught out telling her a lie, she seemed to bear
me no ill-will, but Madeline's indifference nettled her.
She took her departure with less show of effusion. The
door had hardly snapped-to on her before Madeline ex-
" What on earth can Auntie Laura find in a person
NOT A NICE THING TO HAPPEN 203
like that ? " And then very breathlessly : " I say . . .
can we ask the Maguires to stop to supper ? "
I put off my visit to " The Duchess of Pless " for
five days. It was only the haunting dread that some-
thing might appear in the newspapers which eventually
drove me on to fulfil my unpleasant task. How would
father take it? Of one thing I was convinced — it
would upset him greatly. It is a curious fact that al-
though be saw so little of Laura, and not a great deal
of me, I know that we were ever present in his thoughts.
Our welfare was one of his living preoccupations. He
had grown accustomed to our neglect of him. It was
quite natural that we should go off and get married.
The great gulf of years between him and us indeed
created a certain barrier of uncompanionableness. His
interests were not our interests. At the same time he
was very alert to our well-being and conduct, and I
knew that he had a ponderous — not to say Victorian
— respect for what is called honour. I dreaded his
sense of honour. It was like a sledge-hammer. He
had never realised that there had been a serious breach
between Laura and her husband. He knew that she
had gone away, but he did not know the conditions. He
believed it was to do with her work. He viewed artists
as queer, irregular people, likely to do queer, irregular
things. They were essentially creatures to be laughed
at and pitied, but at the same time — there is only one
standard for all Christian people when it comes down
I found him upstairs with stepmother in the parlour.
As I entered the room there flashed through my mind
a kind of myopic vision of our concentrated lives there.
There was something about this house which never
204 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
changed. It seemed to be the only place in the universe
not susceptible to the friction of time. I believed that
whatever I did, whatever experiences were in store for
me, I should always come back and find father in the
horsehair chair, reading the Morning Advertiser, step-
mother sitting primly on the couch, knitting, the wax
fruit and " The Death of Wolfe," the parafiBn lamp with
the green shade — he greatly objected to electricity —
the crowded furniture, and the faded memory of many
teas, Laura coming home from the Royal Academy, the
brown-paper parcels, the Kings of North and South
Carolina. It required an effort of will to see beyond
this vision to the larger issues of my visit. Father
cried out :
" Hullo, Tom ! Glad to see you.''
Stepmother was getting a little feeble. She did not
seem to recognise me at first, but when she did she
held up her cheek to be kissed, and said :
" We're just going to have a cup of tea. Will you
have one, Tom ? "
I said I should be delighted, and I sat there talking
to them both about my business, and the weather, and
the coming general election. I felt embarrassed and
uncomfortable. I could not tell father about Laura
with i^pmother in the room. I could not be sure how
he would take it. And he might not wish her to know.
At the end of an hour I felt I must make a desperate
move, so I said suddenly:
^'I wonder whether you would come down to the
little room at the back of the bar for a few minutes,
dad? I want to consult you about a business con-
^^ Yes, yea, of course. Won't be long, Annie."
We went downstairs, and I felt my heart beating.
We heard the drone of the bars and the popping of
corks. Father turned up the light.
NOT A NICE THING TO HAPPEN 205
I fidgeted from one leg to another.
"It's like this, dad. It isn't about my business I
wanted to speak to you at all. It's something else.
It's to do with — Laura."
There was a tap on the door, and Mrs. Beddoes' be-
powdered face appeared.
" Excuse me, Mr. Purbeck. Johnson is asking for
sherry. We've nothing except that lot that came from
the Bennison sale. Shall we open some ? "
" No, no. I won't have that served. It's inferior
" They won't take it back, sir."
" Then we'll pour the lot away."
"All right, Mr. Purbeck."
She vanished. It did not seem an auspicious start.
" Well, Tom, what's this about Laura ? "
*' I don't know whether you know, dad, her marriage
with Edgar Beyfus was not a success. She has left
" What do you mean — she has left him? "
" She has gone away. She refuses to live with him
Father's eyes rolled menacingly.
" What has he Has he been unfaithful ? "
" I don't know. In any case, they have quarrelled."
" But they are still man and wife. She can't go off
" She has."
" A woman can't leave her husband without proper
" But she has left him, dad."
" I must write to her. She can't do that. She must
" You know what Laura is, dad. She won't go back.
206 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
Besides — there's something elsa She wants to marry
another man — a Frenchman/'
Father was speechless. He took out his pipe, and
put it back in his pocket He gave me a searchmg look
as though he held me responsible, in the same way that
I had held Lucie van Stael responsible. The position
of the bringer of evil tidings is never an enviable one.
In the old days they used to kill them.
" How can she marry another man when she's already
married ? "
" But, damn it, boy! you say she has no grounds for
Poor old chap ! Why must I torture him like this ?
But it had got to be done.
" I'm afraid the fact is Beyfus may divorce her."
" Do you mean to say ^"
For a moment I thought he was going to strike me.
He looked ugly ; very much like he did on the day when
he turned out the unfortunate Zuk. His eyes pro-
truded, his cheeks appeared shiny, his hair bristled.
He thrust his head forward, and opened and clenched his
fists. Then he seemed suddenly to fall to pieces. He
turned away and said in a choking voice:
" It's not a nice thing to have happened, Tom."
The mildness of this verdict moved me more than
any explosion of anger. It was pitiable . . . finished.
He had read the truth in my eyes, and he knew that the
position was irrecoverable. He fixed his eyes upon a
coloured print of a stag-hunt, and suddenly he made a
comment which surprised me:
"I was a fool to have sent her to that Royal
In those brief seconds he must have focussed her
whole career. The unfortunate institution in Tenter-
den Street had been primarily responsible. It had
NOT A NICE THING TO HAPPEN 207
filled her head with false ambitions. She had come in
touch with all these restless, undesirable people. I
could not help following father's eye, and also studying
the stag-hunt. A lady in a bowler hat and a stiff black
frock was gracefully taking a hedge, surrounded by a
pack of dogs. A huntsman in front had been thrown
and was picking himself out of a ditch. What a much
more enviable life! Doubtless in good time the lady
would marry the fallen huntsman. They would lead
normal, healthy lives. They would hunt, and eat, and
bring up a large family of sporting. God-fearing chil-
dren, who would do the same. They would suffer no
misgivings, have none of these complicated twists and
turns of the soul.
Poor Laura I . . . Poor old dad I . . .
▲ FIBST-WICKST MAN
DURING the following two years the firm of
Jevons & Purbeck made surprising progress.
Our success in the first place was undoubtedly
due to th(3 two instances of sheer luck which I have re-
corded, but as time went on we established a more solid
reputation. Jevons said I was a demon for work, and
I think it was true. This passion for accomplishment
was the legacy of my suffering. I was driven to it
blindly, and having once started I felt no desire to re-
lax. It was never a frenzy for making money ; it was
just the impetus to do something that was worth doing
worthily. I made an exhaustive study of the decorative
trade. However busy we were, I always found time for
museums, and books, and old buildings. I got to love
the work, and in a very short time we moved our
premises to Soho, and had our own workshops.
Madeline realised her ambition of a week-end cot-
tage, which we found near High Wycombe, and we
moved to a rather larger and more comfortable house in
St. John^s Wood. We extended our circle of acquaint-
anceship, and frequently I took her to theatres and con-
certs. Even if I was still a victim to the emotional
stress of these e!feperiences, I realised that that was no
excuse for starving the child. We made many new
friends, but the most delightful surprise in the way of
friendship was that with Monsieur le Marquis de Thor
A FIKST-WICKET MAN 209
Laura^s divorce was accomplished with considerable
publicity, but without much fuss. It might have been
more difficult had it not been that at that time Edgar
had made the acquaintance of a South American widow,
who was extremely wealthy and who had dark, languish-
ing eyes. Laura was married to the marquis in Bor-
deaux a week after the divorce had been pronounced.
A honeymoon under the circumstances, I presume, must
have seemed superfluous, for they came to London im-
mediately. You can imagine with what trepidation I
awaited to see this " well-intentioned " and " distin-
guished" bon enfant. They stayed at the Metropole,
and I went to dine with them on the evening of their
arrival. I must say at once that Lucie van Stael had
not lied. He was indeed a delightful young man. He
must have been five or six years younger than Laura.
He was as different from the usual British conception
of a Frenchman as he could well be. He was fair, with
deep blue, reflective eyes and an extremely reserved
manner. He spoke in a rich, low voice, and without
gesture. When I saw them together it occurred to me
that in effect Laura might be a Frenchwoman married
to an Englishman, instead of the reverse. Laura had
not worn well. She looked much older. Her face was
lined and, I thought, over-powdered. She had de-
veloped some cunning way of doing up her dark hair
which made her look very foreign. People stared at her,
and it was not surprising, with her striking, almost
bizarre effect of black velvet and white skin, with car-
mine lips, and the little diamonds glittering at her
throat : a touch of green somewhere — I think a green
velvet flower at her breast. She looked liappy enough,
but as though she had been throng*: awful experiences.
She was very moved when she saw me, and kept pressing
my hand and murmuring:
" Dear old man . . . dear old man,"
210 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
•We had hardly seated ouradiveB at table before she
'^ Henri, let's have some champagne to-night — just
to welcome Tom."
I noted that Henri made no c(Hnment. He ordered
the champagne but he did not drink any himsel£ I
had two glasses, and I believe Laura drank the rest.
She quickly warmed to me^ and we became intimate.
She was the Laura of old.
''I have not made a mistake this time," she said
suddenly, smiling at Henri, who smiled back solemnly
She talked quite simply about her love-affairs, and
talked of Henri as though he were not there, or as
though he were a little boy whose presence hardly
counted. She told me all about his lovable character
and his work. He was, indeed, a scientist, and he had
written books on metallurgy, and sublimates, and con-
glomerates and such things.
" What I like about Henri," she suddenly remarked,
'^is that I can tell him everything. He understands
so . . . Oh, it's wonderful ! I didn't know I could be
so happy, Tom. He knows everything, every little
thing about me."
Henri turned his reflective, adoring eyes upon her
" Foolish woman ! Tour brother will think I am a
paragon, a — what do you call it? — a prig, eh? I
am, on the contrary, a very wicked man, married to an
abandoned woman, who drinks champagne."
Laura sipped her wine and exclaimed:
"Isn't he perfectly sweet I You must love each
other, you two." >
We grinned at each other in that foolish way that
men will when put in an embarrassing position. Afl a
A FIKST-WICKET MAN 211
matter of fact, I think Henri already liked me, and I
certainly felt drawn towards him. Laura chatted on :
" I have told Henri all about father, and he quite —
understands. How is dad ? "
I answered that he was well, but I did not tell Laura
how father had taken the whole affair. I am sure
that Henri would not have been able to understand.
He considered that he had acted honourably, but
father^s ideas of honour were different. I dreaded
what might transpire when they met. We arranged
that they should come to us the following night, as
Laura was crazy to see Madeline again, and that on the
following night we should all visit " The Duchess of
Pless.'' Laura was still a little dubious about Henri.
She kept on repeating:
" It's a queer place, Henri. You mustn't be
And he replied promptly :
" I shall be most entertained. I have a great respect
for your father, from what you have told me of him.''
The meeting at our house was almost hilarious.
Madeline and Henri hit it off at once. My daughter
at last had met someone whose mission it was to find out
about things. He talked to her quite solemnly, as
though she were a grown-up person. He told her all
kinds of interesting things about the stars, and the
formation of the earth, and the tides, and the law of
gravitation. He did not attempt to patronise her.
Her eyes gleamed with interest. I believe Laura was
almost jealous — not of Madeline but of Henri. She
wanted to have the child to herself, but Henri almost
212 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
As I listened to Henri and observed his kind, candid,
fatherly manner, I thought to myself: " How fine it is
for Laura I There is no doubt she has found the right
man this time. It is like a miracle. Dear old Laura !
I'm so glad."
We eagerly discussed our future plans. Laura and
Henri were to have a house in Curzon Street. It had
already been negotiated for. They were to spend part
of their time in London, and the rest in Paris and down
the South. Moreover, the old ambitions were again
stirring. Henri offered no objections to her continuing
her professional career if it made her happier. He
had given her a Strad.
" I shall only go for the good things now," she said.
"No more of these flap-doodle ballad shows for me."
She was in the highest spirits. We discussed taking
a furnished house in Cornwall for August and Septem-
ber, which we were to share.
" And I should like," continued Laura, " to get the
dear old dad and stepmother down for a bit."
We laughed and talked and plotted. We were a
merry, congenial party. At half-past nine Madeline
dashed out into the hall to answer to the postman's
knock. She returned with a letter which she held out
" A letter from grandpa," she said.
" Good ! " I answered. " I wrote to him last night.
This will be about our going to-morrow."
I opened the letter, and stared at it. I read it
through five times. I could not put it down. I tried
to crumple it up in my hands, but Laui*a snatched it
"What's the matter, Tom?"
I could not prevent her reading it. I sat there like
one paralysed. Madeline looked over Laura's shoulder.
This is the letter they read:
A FIRST-WICKET MAN 213
" Deab Tom,
" I have a son but no daughter. I have no wish
to meet the Marshoness of wherever it is.
" Your affectionate
Henri looked enquiringly at his wife, who went quite
whita We none of us spoke until Madeline blurted
" Whatever does he mean ? Why does he say he has
no daughter when Aimtie Laura is sitting here all the
Then Laura burst into tears.
" It's just my luck ! It's always my luck ! " she
It was useless to pretend to Henri that nothing was
amiss, so I took the letter and handed it to him. He
read it through at a glance, then he patted Laura's
"My dear," he said quietly, "he does not under-
stand. He cannot know that we are married."
"Oh, yes, he does. You don't understand. You
can't understand — father."
Henri looked extremely perplexed. He knew that
he had acted sincerely and honourably. His friends
had told him he had acted with extraordinary magna-
nimity. According to his code his position was unas-
sailable. He had fulfilled his obligations to the letter.
He was even on his way to be entirely familiar and
friendly to his wife's father, who, he had been told,
was a common old pot-house keeper. He intended to
show that he did not in any way wish to presume upon
this social discrepancy. He would treat him as an
equal. How could any honourable and well-intentioned
man do otherwise ? And then this amazing letter ! It
was simply incomprehensible.
214 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
'^ Same misunderstandiiig/' he muttered, looking
from one to the other.
But I knew, and Laura, dabbing her eyes with her
handkerchief, knew that there was no misunderstand-
ing. The issues were perfectly clear, and quite irrec-
oncilable. Henri was right and father was right, but
neither the twain could possibly adapt his point of view
to the other. Henri had his code. He may even have
been harbouring a slight sense of liberality in coming to
forgive the girFs father for being a publican. He had
gone a little beyond the actual prescriptions of Ihe code.
But away over there, amidst those dingy tankards and
glass screens, the antimacassars and stuffy furniture,
was another code. A strange, relentless, Victorian code,
something which could not be turned aside or bought.
A code which believed in fair dealing, in decent action,
in refusing to adulterate wine or to serve inferior
sherry. A code which would never under any circum-
stances forgive adultery.
Henri frankly did not understand. He turned the
" What does he mean by the ^ marshoness of wherever
I believe for the moment he was more concerned
about this slight to the family name than to the moral
imputation. He wondered whether any possible scan-
dal could have arisen connected with the name to pro*
duce so gross a breach of courtesy.
Laura snatched the letter from his hand.
" It's no good,** she said. " Father is like that. We
shall have to — cut him out, dear."
Henri nodded sagely. Of course, now he undeor-
A FIKST-WIOKET MAN 216
stood. This old potman was a drunkard. He was
probably drunk when he wrote that letter. His beau-
tiful Laura was distressed. She did not wish her hus-
band to meet the old reprobate. There might be an
unfortunate contretemps. She had always been a little
apprehensive about the meeting. Well, well, it was of
no great importance. Eegrettable, extremely regretta-
ble that the father should be a drunkard. He must
be avoided. His adorable wife must be kept from
the contamination . . . Henri suddenly gave her one
of his quick, penetrating glances, and moved a little
uneasily in his chair. Eegrettable, very regrettable.
. . . Eather odd . . . did his beloved one sometimes
seem disposed to . . . demand rather a lot of wine?
Henri continued to stroke the bridge of his nose.
To Madeline also the whole affair was incomprehensi-
ble. It was unfortunate that she should have been
present. The letter did not distress her so much as
Laura's sudden outburst of tears. For a moment I
thought she was going to cry herself, then she stamped
up and down the room, and exclaimed vehemently:
" I shall go and see grandpa to-morrow, and give him
a jolly good talking to."
Henri smiled, and put his arm round her.
" You are a little tigress, I can see."
" Well, it's so stupid ; so utterly stupid ! He might
as well say he hasn't got a pair of trousers when he's
wearing them all the time."
We all laughed at that, and the atmosphere seemed to
clear a little. I was anxious to change the subject, for
I knew that it would be useless to discuss it. Only
Laura and I alone could discuss it. I fetched some de-
signs which I had been making for a panelled room.
We looked at them, and sat talking till half -past ten,
when Laura and Henri took their departure. Laura
216 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
and I could only exchange glances, but I invited her to
come down and inspect our new business premises the
I lay awake that night for a long time, thinking over
the unfortunate situation. It must have been about
two o'clock in the morning when an idea suddenly leapt
to the forefront of my sombre reflections. " Uncle
Stephen ! " There was something about Uncle Stephen
that was very get-at-able. He was less Puritanical than
father and more informative. I always felt that I could
say anything to him. He was not by any means a clever
man, but he had a curious breadth of outlook, and a
rather shrewd way of making deductions. I found him
in the office of his stationery business just before lunch-
time. He called out :
" Hullo, Tom, come to lend me some money ? Wait
ten seconds, and we'll go and have a bite of something
We went to a little Italian cafe near by, where, as
Uncle Stephen said, "the food was vile but the best
you can get in Notting Hill." He was elated at the
success of Jevons & Purbeck, and I could get him to^tfllk
of nothing else. It was not till we were regaling our-
selves with two very good cigars, and drinking a luke-
warm liquid which the management described as coflFee,
that I got an opportunity of laying bare the full story
of our family upheaval. Uncle Stephen listened and
nodded and twirled his dark moustache. It did not
seem to produce in him any manifestation of surprise,
or indignation, or sympathy. He merely kept saying:
" Yes ? Well 2 " When I had finished he said :
" Well, what do you want me to do, boy ? " ^fS ,
" I only wondered whether it would be possible for
A FIRST-WICKET MAN 217
jovL, as his brother, to go to him, and try and make
things all right? Explain exactly how it came about,
and make him see that Laura and Henri did the wisest
and best thing."
Uncle Stephen leant across the table and tapped me
on the shoulder with his long first finger.
" Tom, did you ever see Arthur Shrewsbury batting
for Notts on a plumb wicket, with a schoolboy pitching
him up long hops ? "
" I can't say I ever did."
**He never took any risks, whoever was bowling.
I should stand about as much chance of getting your
father out as the schoolboy would have of getting out
Shrewsbury. Oh, no, lad. I've known your father
for over sixty years. He's set. He's got his eye in.
Nothing could move him."
He flicked the end of his cigar into the coffee-saucer
and went on:
" I don't say anything one way or the other about
the rights and wrongs of the case. I've seen too mucL
I've never been a Shrewsbury nor even a Jessop. I'm
just an ordinary back-garden player. I've not even
been a Joseph. I've made love and not r^retted it.
I've made money and lost it, and made it again. I
believe in sport as the best school. One learns to give
and take, to take the best with the worst, and never to
kick or grouse. But your old man is of different metal.
He's a Shrewsbury. A first-wicket man, a man who'll
never alter his style. It doesn't matter who's bowling
against him. He knows he's got iron nerves and a
wrist of steel, and he knows that the honour of the side
depends on him. You couldn't get past his defence
with a cannon-ball."
" But surely, uncle, he can be made to see that there
may be two sides to a case ? I've never known him do
anything unkind in my life."
218 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
Uncle Stephen drew back and locked at me medita-
tivelj, as thongh brooding upon the advisability of a
confidence. I pressed my point.
Uncle Stephen coughed, and looked round the little
restaurant The few stray customers were immersed
in newspapers. Speaking in a lower voice, he replied:
"I believe I gave you a tip once, Ton^ that your
mother — drank a bit, eh ? "
'' He took her from the sunshine of Spain and Chile,
and brought her into this filthy climate. She was
twenty-four, a beautiful girl -^- more beautiful than
Laura. He took her to the pub in Camden Town.
She loved him, but she hated the country. Above all
•he hated the climate. The fogs, and the wet, and the
dulness, and the cold got on her nerves. She put up
with it for years, till you and Laura were no longer
babies. She was always imploring that you should
all go back to Spain or South America. She didn't
care which — anywhere where there was sunshine.
But your father would not. He was not rude about
it He simply laughed and shook his head. No; his
business was here, and she was his wife. Do you see ?
He could not see that there were two sides to the case.
Then gradually she began to drink. It was very acces-
sible. Probably it warmed her, or helped to conjure
up visions of the land she was craving for. He did
not notice it at first, but after a time no one could help
noticing it. She nipped secretly all day. Once he
found her dead-drunk in — the parlour I think it was.
He was furious. He did not see how it had come
about. He simply ordered her not to drink again.
She was his wife. It wasn't the way to behave. He
didn't conduct his house on those lines. The reputa-
tion of his well-conducted house would be ruined. But
A FIRST-WICKET MAN 3l9
you know what it is, boy, when people once get the
craving. She got it oiitside. She got it by all manner
of means. She drank more than ever. They quar-
relled incessantly. Once she was picked up in the
street at the comer of your road. The weaker her
character got, the stronger and sterner he became. He
could simply see nothing except that she was his wife
he was anxious to love and support, and she was be-
having dishonourably. One day he found her in one
of the rooms in the arms of a f ellow-coimtryman. Tour
father thrashed the man, and turned your mother put
into the streets. You ask me whether he ever did an
unkind action? ... I tell you he's a very strange
" But what became of mother ? "
" She died in Paris. I don't know the circum-
stances. I know it nearly broke his heart. He
adored her, really. He's a strange man. I tell you
he has a heart of gold, but everyone has got to play
the game according to his rules."
I was already late for my appointment with Laura,
but I did not feel eager to go. I had certainly nothing
very helpful to lay before her. I lighted a cigarette
and tried to appear as tranquil as I could. I said :
" Thank you very much, uncle."
He laughed. " TTou might just as well say, * Curse
you, uncle.' It's not a very pretty story, is it, Tom ? "
" I would rather know the truth, anyway. It'ri good
of you to have told me."
Uncle Stephen continued his ruminations.
" He's the strangest card I ever met. I found out
when we were boys that he was too strong for me. He
has his rules and principles and nothing else simply
S20 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
counts. He wcm't concede an inch. They are not
always reasonable, but he thinks they're the most im-
portant thing in the world. Money I . . . Have you
any idea how much money he has t ''
^' Not the slightest. He told me once we were hard
up. It was just after I left schooL He said a part-
ner had let him in, or something."
^'That was true to an extent But it was only a
small amount He's certainly one of the richest men
in Camden Town. He could buy them all up. He's
a hard-dealing man. He's kind to the people he loves,
but he must keep the control in his own hands. All
the money he's made he's made by hard work and fair
dealing, and he believes that everyone else ought to
do the same. He could easily have afforded to send
you to cdlege, or abroad to study, or have put you into
one of the big professions. We argued about it. But
na The boy must make his own way, as he had. I
knew the kind of lad you were, and Uiat was why I
pitched up that yarn about 'Baionnette' winning the
" What ! " I exclaimed. " Do you mean that it
wasn't true ? "
^^ It was true that ' Baionnette ' won, and that I won
a couple of fivers."
" Uncle ! You ought not to have done that ! "
'^It was touch-and-go. I waited till you were over
age. I thought there might be an infernal row about
it. We were, I know, all on the edge of a volcano.
It was Laura who put the lid on it. When he saw
that she meant to tdke the money whether he liked it
or not, he compromised with himself, I should think for
the first time in his life. But he has never quite for-
A FIRST-WICKET 2dAN 221
"I wonder ... if he gave in to Laura on that
occasion when he saw that she did not mean to give
way — perhaps he would on this."
" There's no comparison at all. After all, the money
was not dishonestly come by. There was no disgrace
about it. It was a fair win and a fair gift. It was
only that he was superstitious about it, don't you see?
He kept on saying, * N"o good comes of it.' But this
aflFair! . . . Mind you, I'm not criticising. But how-
ever you like to explain it away, you can't get away
from the fact that Laura gave herself to this man
when she was already a married woman. It was
adultery. He turned his wife out of the house for
much less reason. I'm sorry, old boy, but I simply
wouldn't have the pluck to go and tackle him about it
I know him too well."
" Well, uncle, I'm very grateful to you. I must be
I found Laura in one of our show-rooms. She was
in a very bad temper.
" You said you'd be here at half -past two, Tom."
" Sorry, old girl ; I've been kept by a business en-
gagement. Let me show you round."
But Laura's interest in our new premises was ex-
tremely apathetic. She said she felt tired and had a
headache. She wanted to sit on one of the comfort-
able Chesterfields. We sat in silence for some moments.
Then I said :
" I'm afraid it's going to be difficult — this business
Laura scowled at me. Then she said fiercely :
" Do you think I care — whether the old fool wants
to see me or not ? "
I looked at her and answered quietly:
222 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
" Yes, I think you do."
And then, of course, she cried.
Jevons thrust his head outside the door of the inner
office. He did not notice Laura. He called out to
" We've got that Wychley Court job, Tont"
THE occupants of Wychley Court were most
delightful and sympathetic people. Jevons
and I had been introduced to them by Lady
Stourport. They consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Waynes-
foote and their daughter Stella. Mr. Waynesf oote was
a courtly old gentleman with charming manners. He
had been in the diplomatic service, had owned news-
papers, and written books on sub-tropical fauna. He
was deaf in one ear and he had a habit of holding
his hand cup-shaped at the back of his other ear, and
leaning forward and saying:
" Eeally ! Now that^s most interesting ! "
Quite ordinary remarks appeared to impress him as
being profound revelations. In spite of his deafness,
he was the best listener I have ever met. He wanted
to know everything, and he never forgot anything you
told him. At our very first interview he was not con-
tent only to discuss the alterations he proposed to have
at Wychley Court, but he wanted to know all about
myself, my life, my work, my moral and spiritual out-
look. He was a far more intellectual man than I, but
he had that genius of suggesting that it was just the
other way about. He would ask me my opinion as
though it was a matter of the utmost importance to
liiTrt- He must have been a good diplomat, for he
234 ONE AFTEK ANOTHER
always made me give myself away. I simply rattled
on to him like a babbling child. After our second in-
terview he invited me down to spend the week-end.
Mrs. Waynesfoote was one of those compact, grey-
eyed New England women, who had lived in this
country since the day of her wedding — twenty-eight
years ago — but still retained the strong characteristics
of her race. Stella was something of a contrast to her
parents . . . unexpected. Fair, jolly, and on the sur-
face rather a tomboy. Always dressing up, and wear-
ing striking effects. Even her face and hair were not,
I suspected, free from artificial attention. But you
felt that all this was not vanity, but just the joy and
fun of doing it. She loved an effect, and dancing,
and the friction of social life. She inherited the
parents' keen interest in everything and everyone. The
very first time I went there I felt that they were
old friends. Before I had known them a month Mrs.
Waynesfoote asked me to bring Madeline down. We
went, and the visit was an unqualified success. Made-
line said afterwards that she had never been asked so
many questions in her life. And she did not require
any encouragement. She prattled on quite unselfcon-
sciously. They were all very amused with her. Mr.
Waynesfoote listened to her opinions with the same
rapt attention he had paid to mine. She had never
been to such a beautiful and luxurious house, and she
did not hesitate to say so, or to go around and examine
everything in detail. She and Stella became fast
friends. The friendship came at an opportune time,
for Madeline was feeling the loss of Elspeth and Dolly
Maguire, who had gone back to Canada. Stella must
have been ten or eleven years older than Madeline, so
that they could not have been quite as intimate as the
Maguire children, but she was extremely kind. When
they were in town Stella visited us in St. John's Wood,
ADEQUATE ENCOURAGEMENT 226
and sometimes she took Madeline for a run in the car
to Eoehampton, or Hurlingham, or Henley.
Laura and Henri had gone back to France. The
breach with father was never healed. It was I who
eventually had to go and plead, and then for the
first time in my life I beheld an aspect of him which
during all these years I had never suspected. Uncle
Stephen was right. He was absolutely immovable —
almost brutal to me. He accused me of conniving at
vice, of condoning my sister's unchastity. He said
that on the occasion of that interview when I had
hinted at what had happened, he was simply ashamed
of me. He would have been prouder if I'd gone to
France and " thrashed that blackguardly marquis to a
jelly." He said he didn't know what was going to
happen to this country. All the young people seemed
to have no honour, no morals, no religion. I made a
final plea that perhaps we had charity. He fumed at
^^ I have charity too — for the poor and weak, but
I should be ashamed to use it as a cloak to licentious-
ness. If we are to have charity for every vice — by
God! what will happen to this country? I couldn't
flee why he wanted to keep on talking about* "the
country." I wanted to say I didn't give a damn about
the country ; I was concerned with Laura. And then I
flaw that this would be weak. It was true, father be-
lieved implicitly in the country. He was a staunch
patriot. He believed in England, the Church, the King,
honour, and the licensing trade. I could do nothing
with him. Our two points of view were irreconcilable.
And I felt that mine was the weaker case. It was nebu-
lous, difficult to explain, and it had no figure-heads. I
could have talked till Doomsday without convincing him
one iota. And afterwards I could not help being im-
pressed by the spectacle of a man sacrificing someone he
226 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
loved dearly for a principle. I was not myself capable
of such an exalted attitude. To me love always comes
As was to be expected, the idea of sharing a fur-
nished house in Cornwall with Laura and Henri for
the summer holidays did not materialise. They were
staying at their chateau on the Loire, near Amboise,
and they invited us to go over and stay with them;
but I did not feel at that time that I could leave the
business for so long, as Jevons had been ill and had
had to go away for a complete rest. Neither did I
feel eager to let Madeline go alone. Somehow I had
got a little out of touch with Laura, and I did not
know Henri sufficiently well. I could form no idea of
the kind of life they lived, or of the kind of people
they entertained. Madeline was very precious to me.
I wanted her to have a good change, but I wanted her
to be easily accessible. I explained all this one day
to Mr. Waynesfoote, and the following day I had a
letter from Mrs. Waynesfoote inviting Madeline to
stay with them at their country house on the Sussex
downs for August, and inviting me to go for as long
and as often as I could. I hoped they did not think
I had fished for this invitation, but it was very accepta-
ble. The Waynesfootes were becoming more and more
intimate. They were so easy to get on with. In spite
of some aristocratic streak in the family, there was no
fuss or side. Probably Mrs. Waynesfoote had brought
a bold streak of democratic unconventionality into a
life which might easily have become stereotyped. In
the country they were at their best. They wore shabby
old clothes, although Stella always managed to make
herself arresting, with vari-coloured jumpers, bright
ADEQUATE ENCOimAGEMENT 227
plaids, and daring scarves. She was a fine horse-
woman, and Madeline, to her delight, was taught to
ride. I went down for sundry week-ends, and in Sep-
tember managed to stay for a whole week. Madeline
eventually stayed on till the school re-opened in the
third week in September.
There was a continuous house-party. The people we
met there were as removed from the Woodstack people
as Woodstack was from " The Duchess of Pless." It
was a different world from any I had been used to.
There were members of Parliament, knights of industry
and science, people eminent in the arts. But they
were not invited for their reputations but because the
Waynesfootes liked them. They were not tuft-hunters,
neither was there any attempt to accentuate social dis-
tinctions. I sometimes wondered what some of these
people would have thought if they had known that my
father was a Camden Town publican. I blush to say
that I had not even informed the Waynesfootes them-
selves of this fact. I have no excuse to offer. It was
just the inner streak of snobbery which we nearly all pos-
sess in some form or another. I had never given Made*
liae any advice about the matter, but I am quite sure
that she avoided the subject also. I wore my dinner-
jacket, and sat on the terrace, sipping coffee, and talk-
ing to some woman who had never ridden in a public
conveyance, or done up one of her own frocks in her
life, and we talked quite familiarly about Villon, or
George Moore, or the diseases of dogs, or the ideal
way to run a state; and I thought to myself:
" It's a queer world ! "
I confess that I easily fell a victim to the narcotic of
these social nuances. I suppose, as Kadic said, I
"went down the sink." But what is man if not a
social being? And if so, why not do it as well as
possible? It is in the social hour that man surveys
228 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
hia story. It is the moment of his triimiph. Outside
the beasts are still fighting in the wood, the stubborn
roots of trees are struggling in the ground^ the rocks
are wasting against the pressure of the wind . . •
everything that he has sprung from. Within, cun-
ning lights reveal the rich display of his imagination,
materials of fine texture and design, things old and
nobly wrought . • . all that he has wrung from the
cold heart of Nature, the story of his day. Above all
• • • those others whom he needs with a passionate in-
sistence — their eyes seeking his. Lively thinking, the
little corridors to high adventure, leading hither and
thither. The eternal experiment, with his mind
crystal-clear reading the portents. A rower cannot see
the beauty of the river or realise the distance he has
coma It is only when he rests upon his oars or glides
between the reeds, and sees the martins swing above the
willow-herb ... it is all clear then; the distance, the
colour, the majesty of changing life, the significance of
his place in it
Heigho ! I suppose I was (^hanging, toa
I was becoming a comparatively successful man,
hardening, developing a material crust. The impetus
to being ^^ a successful man in myself " was slackening,
or being modified by insuflScient support I was con-
tent to follow behmd Madeline, learning from her,
watching the white ribbon of the road ahead.
One day in the autumn I was s^it for to go and see
my father. I found him only partly conscious. He
was lying on his back in bed, and his face was quite
yellow. Stepmother and a nurse were hovering about
the room. He pressed my hand and said :
Tom . . • they've got me." And then he mum-
ADEQUATE ENCOURAGEMENT 229
bled something of which I only caught the word '^ kid-
I turned away to the nursa
^ " Do yon mean to say ? " I gasped.
She nodded her head, and whispered, "It's very
I was terribly alarmed. I waited for the visit of
the doctor, and he gave me no hope at all. I wandered
about the house disconsolately, I could not believe it.
The only permanent comer in the universe suddenly
brought face to face with dissolution. My father
would die, and this house, sacred to the thousand mem-
ories of our united lives, wou^d crumble and pass away.
Here was the spot where Laura and I did Hubert and
Arthur, and i^e had caught my eye, and laughed.
. . . Here, probably, mother used to sit, and watch
the rain splashing down in the dull streets, dreaming of
Spain. The dark passage and the print of Queen
Victoria, the comer where I used to climb up on the
steps and look into the private bar. Why must all
these things be^ so vivid ? I went into the bar, and
spoke to Mrs. Beddoes. How sordid and dreary it aU
seemed. Probably, coming fresh from WycUey Court
helped to emphasise the gaping ugliness. How could
I have ever found pleasure in this atmosphere ? A few
dingy men were huddled together in the public bar,
the private was deserted, but a fat old man waa seated
in a comer of the saloon, apparently asleep. Mrs.
Beddoes was whispering to a barmaid. "Poor old
fellow 1 " I heard her say, but the eyes of both of
them were bright, not with grief, but with that kind
of excitement which a death or a funeral always eixoites
among certain people.
I had never thought of my father dying. He was
not the kind to die. He loved life. It was all such
a simple process to him. Why couldn't he be allowed
230 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
to live — laughing, and joking, polishing his brown
boots, and doing tilings properly? They would talk
of him in years to come — " Old Purbeck's Paradise "
— a queer old crank — but they would never know the
secrets of his heart. They would never know that he
gave up the two people he loved most dearly for a
principle. Strong and incorruptible, imimaginative
and narrow-minded, kind but unduly cautious, pas-
sionate but self-centred — if it hadn't been all so sim-
ple to him !
I hung about " The Duchess of Pless " for ten days,
going in two or three times a day from our place of
business. On several occasions I met Uncle Stephen,
and he was a great help and comfort The first time
I met him there, he said:
"Well, boy, it's no good pretending. They've got
through his defence at last He may keep up his
wicket for an over or two, but he won't score any
I think this brought home the inevitable to me more
than any other statement. The whole thing became a
dream. Curious people appeared and vanished. Step-
mother, who would not leave the room, and would not
weep. Doctors, and specialists, and business friends,
a succession of nurses. Upstairs the ever-present
tragedy, downstairs the eternal drone of the bars and
the popping of corks. There seemed to be a kind of
conspiracy that, whatever happened, this must not stop.
The gods demanded this accompaniment to the render-
ing of their elegiac The dream was dominated by
the personality of Uncle Stephen darting hither and
thither, keeping people on the move, and being sensible.
His dark moustache appeared more obviously dyed than
ever, as his face appeared bony and lined and hollow,
and the short hair on his temple had become quite
whitOL He seemed to be living up to the formula:
ADEQUATE ENCOUBAQEMENT 231
" Back your fancy. If you lose, don't grouse or kick.
Sport is the best school."
On the tenth evening I was alone with my father. I
did not know whether he was conscious or not. Sud-
denly he looked at ma
He did not speak for some minutes. He seemed
to be pulling himself together for a great effort Then
" Tom . . . what really happens when you die ? "
I was taken at a complete disadvantage. I never felt
more fully the inadequacy of my own convictions. I
stammered and muttered:
" Oh, I — I expect it's all right, dad."
" Yee ; but what really happens ? "
I was amazed. He was afraid of death. This
strong man of iron principles and religious faith was
suddenly become a child afraid of the dark.
" You go on ... I expect."
"Yes . . . but the people we love? . . ."
I leant over him. It was an opportunity I had been
"Dadl do you hear me? . . . Laura is back in
town. Laura is here — only ten minutes away. Do
you hear me, dad ? "
I do not know whether he heard me or not. I
fancy not. His eyes were closed, and his face was
set in that mask-like pose of absolute concentration
which only the dying possess. I repeated my state-
ment, but he gave no sign. He appeared to be ab-
sorbed in this new problem which has disturbed the
imagination from time immemorial. The minutes
ticked away. Once he sighed. It must have been a
quarter of an hour before he showed a disposition to
282 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
speak again. Then he muttered something I oonld not
hear. I put my ear close to his mouth.
" They ought not . . . tell Mrs. B. . . . ought not
decant . . . that stuff from . . • wass name • . .
people in Leadenhall . • . not before June . . . end
of May . . ."
Those were the last words my father spoka He died
at five o'clock the next morning.
Stella married me three months later. It was her
suggestion. At least, I have always contended sa
What would you do if you had a letter like the fol-
lowing? It came soon after she had been 8pendin|[
a week with us :
" My Lobd and Masteb^
" In the first place, perhaps, I ought to thank
you for your hospitality. Well, then, it was very nice
indeed. There, is that restrained enough for you?
Father has given me a perfect duck of a shawl, an old
Paisley. I believe even you will have to do more
than grunt when you see it. Tou are always accusing
me of thinking too much about the body. But what
would you? You have to think about it to get the
utmost out of it. The soul is a self-supporting article,
a kind of hardy perennial. But, oh, my lord, the
body withers and withers. TJgh! The great secret
is to be always looking ahead, so that you are not taken
by surprise. I have already thought about what I'm
going to wear when I'm a very old lady with snow-
white hair in little festoons of curls. I shall wear a
black frock with tiny lace rufiles, that old brooch of
Whitby jet and moonstones that used to belong to
ADEQlfATE ENCOURAGEMENT 238
Aunt AlicCj and — tliia shawl. Do you think you
will know rue then ? Forlorn youth, your mournful
face haunts mi. With adequate encouragement I
could iron out evefy wrinkle and frown. Madeline ia
an angel. Tou must ihmh of her^-I know you do!
but even a teeny-weeny bit more.
1 " Tour friend,
When I read thi& letter through I turned it over and
smiled. I was about to take up a pen and reply in a
similar strain. Then I thought to myself:
"No; this is too important. I cannot be flippant
in such a case."
I put it in my pocket, and all night long and the
next day I thought about it intermittently. About
four o'clock in the afternoon I got into a fever of rest-
lessness, i prayed for the wings of Mercury, but fail-
ing them I conmiandeered an old car which our firm
used for odd jobs and a young chauffeur who also did
stencilling, and I winged .my way out of London in the
direction of Wychley Court. I found Stella in a green-
house, potting bulbs. She was wearing an overall, and
she dropped a trowel at sight of me.
" Good gracious ! What have you come for ? "
" IVe come in answer to your proposal of marriage."
''Mj — whatf'
" I've given the matter every consideration, and tak-
ing into account all the circumstances of the case, I
cannot exactly see my way to refuse."
" You are the most insolent villain I have ever met.
Go, before I scream for my father to come and horse-
" In other words, I've come to give you adequate
" You wretch I You take advantage of my kindness.
284 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
Because I offered to remove the wrinkles, you . . .
Oh, Tom, no! No violence . . . no, not again.
You are hurting me ! "
Panting against the wall, her face all flushed, she
" I don't suppose you have even asked your daugh-
ter's consent ? "
" She is bound to give it ma We will go together
on our knees."
" I have nothing to beg for. Now, do be sensible."
A long interval devoted to action.
" How old are you, Sir Launcelot ? "
" I've reached the romantic age of forty-two."
"Then I ought to be half that, plus seven. H'm.
It's very curious. It's very awkward. I'm exactly
twenty-seven. I'm a year too young."
" We will have a six-months' honeymoon. That will
make you half a year older, and me half a year
" I never thought you could be so ridiculous. Oh,
dear ! I wish I was dressed for the part I Fancy be-
ing proposed to in this old overall ! "
" Stella, I know I'm a middle-aged old fool. I've
no right to do this. You know all about me. I'm
lonely, dear. Forlorn, as you say. I suppose it's mad-
ness of me, but I want you so much. You know, don't
you ? I can't keep on being flippant. Tell me. Tell
me what I want to know."
She did not answer, but she held out her arms.
When I arrived home that night, I went in very
sheepishly to see Madeline. I blurted out my con-
fession, without preliminary. For a moment I thought
tears hovered in her eyes. Then she kissed me, and
said quietly :
"You are a funny old thing, daddy."
Someone else had called me that
ADEQUATE ENCOURAGEMENT 235
Mellow days in Bellagio. Moonlight nights among
the cypresses. Idling on the lake, listening to the Oam-
panello. Is it possible that twice in one's life one
may attain complete happiness in that way? I don't
know. More mature, perhaps. Different. Every-
thing changes. We talked often and quite simply
about Mary. Stella never showed any resentment ox
jealousy. The great thing is to love — while you can-
life is an inexhaustible storehouse of riches. We go
on and on discovering them. Sometimes they appear
fixed and essential, then one after another tiiey pass
away. I accepted Stella as she came to me, as a god-
dess satisfying every physical and spiritual desire.
Our emotions obeyed a unifying demand. Our minds,
in all the little mysteries of taste and inclination,
dovetailed with a fine adjustment I never asked her
if she had loved before, but one night she told me she
had had " a terrible affair " when she was twenty-two.
A married man, older than herself. Eond of his wife
but a union without real passion. " It was perfectly
awful, dear. We used to meet ... we loved each
other desperately, and we both liked the wife. It
seemed so mean. It went on and on. We simply
could not let each other go. I believe I — I would
have gone away with him. He wanted me to. It was
only the thought of father and mother, I think, which
kept me from doing it. . . . Oh, my dear, I'm so
Eappy now to think I didn't'^
*' Is it all now dead to you ? "
^'No, not dead. But something which has passed
by on the other sida It was a foregathering, perhaps,
(rf all these forces which I feel now. You are the real-
isation. I know now that I have waited for you."
236* ONE AFTER ANOTHER
I pressed her to ma A strange mood crept over me.
I wanted to say:
^ I aon^t know. Fm a queer old card. Love comes
easily to me. You darling angel, you hold me in the
hollow of your palm. But my position is unusual
While you hold me like this I am a complete and splen-
did entity. The world can give me nothing more. But
if you were to die — I am hardened to the thought,
you see — if I were endowed with some abnormal
powers of life — just this life — I believe I could love
a thousand women, and each one reverently, passion-
ately, finely — as I love you. Memory fades. Bodily
desires are a quicksand, where no trace is left"
I did not say this, but in the darkness she seemed
to divine something of my thoughts. She suddenly
"Do you think, when people letve each other like
we do, that they are united for ever and ever % "
" No. All this life, and perhaps X)ut beyond, but
not for ever. Nothing lasts for ever. Everythiijg
Her cheeks were wet. "It^s beastly cruel," she
" No. It only seems cruel to us at this moment. It
wouldn't be like you think — an awful parting — but
. . . somehow different. I hate these people who call
themselves spiritualists, who mess about with tables
and messages and try to pierce the veil. They are
simply fidgets. They have no pride. A man's busi-
ness concerns his own soul and nothing else at all. . . .
SteDa, you must not cry."
"Was I crying? ... I don't know why, dear.
Eiss ma again. Hold ma dose to you."
WE did not stay away for six months^ as I
had suggested. There was too much to do,
and Madeline could not be left. There is,
indeed, something extremely primitive in the idea of
a honeymoon. A period set apart for the more ob-
vious delights of married life, and for nothing else at
all. So obvious that, although it has the sanction of the
"j? Church and the State, and the blessings (accompanied
^•by slightly amused benedictions) of friends and rela-
tives, the two victims, blushing from the very precise
obligations put upon them in the Church service, feel
it necessary to go away and hide. If they have the
misfortune to encounter friends on this adventure^
there passes between them an exchange of knowing
glances which makes the position almost intolerabla
We stayed three weeks at Bellagio, and a week at
Como. Then we. took a flying visit to Gtenoa, and re-
turned home through Paris. At Paris we stayed for
five days with Laura and Henri, in their fine house
on the Champs Elysees. The visit was very enlight-
ening to me in several respects. I found that Laura
and Henri were leading quite detached lives, although
still very devoted to each other. Henri spent most of
the diay in his laboratory, or at one of the colleges where
he was lecturing; Laura was living the life of a Pa-
risian society woman. She had practically given up
288 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
the violin. Shortly after their visit to us, she had again
given a series of recitals, but they had not been a
success. Her playing had deteriorated, and her repu-
tation had not been enhanced by the notorious vicissi-
tudes of her career. The only thing that had come
of it had been an ofiPer by a music-hall manager to play
in a sketch specially written for her. He offered her a
princely salary. There were to be coloured lights, and
gorgeous frocks, and the incident of burning a violin.
There was also to be a murder in it. Laura was to
play under the name of " The beautiful Marquise de
Thor Bohunville.*' Henri was, naturally, very op-
posed to the idea, and eventually it fell throu^.
Laura returned to Paris, and easily drifted into Sie
conventi(Hial routine of a social life. During the five
days we spent there it was easy to gauge the position.
Laura never appeared till lunch-time, and then she was
pale and irritabla At that time she was forty-five,
but she might have been considerably more. In the af-
ternoon she would sometimes drive, but more frequently
retire for further rest At afternoon tea she would
appear in a dazzling rest-gown and regale us with some
of her social exploits. But it was not till the evening
that she appeared to revive completely. In her evening
frock, and the artificial light, aided by the professional
skill of an experienced maid, she was again a beautiful
woman in the very prime of life. She overpowered
Stella with affection and flattery. Every night we were
bidden to a series of functions. Sometimes we dined
at home, sometimes elsewhere, but there always fol-
lowed a theatre, a reception, or a ball, and not infre-
quently the whole lot Henri dined with us, but he
did not accompany us on these expeditions. He went
to bed soon after ten. Stella rose to these attractions
with alacrity. Great fun I She wasn't going to let
these Parisians outshine her. She would show them
THE EABBIT 289
that she, too, knew how to carry a frock. She said that
she thought that Madame la Marquise was one of the
most fascinating people she had ever met. It was im-
possible to keep track of Laura's friends. We met
hundreds in those few days — deputies, scientists,
merchants, and actors. Many we absolutely disliked.
Others were quite charming. We rushed hither and
Henri would be about when I came down to my
English breakfast at nine o'clock. He had already
been for a ride. He was about to go into the labora-
tory. He would look at me with his deep, reflective
eyes, and say:
^' Good morning. Mister Tom. You enjoying your
I would reply that we were having a great time. And
he would nod sagely, and add :
"For a little while, yes. But one cannot live at
both ends of the candle. I fear you will think me a
boor. I neglect my guests disgracefully. Fortunately,
my wife is a good hostess, eh? I have an important
paper I am preparing for the institute. But please
come into the laboratory and see me, whenever you feel
I thanked him profusely. I only once, however,
penetrated into this sanctum. On this occasion Henri
was very charming to me, but I realised that I was
obviously holding up his work. He had two assistants,
and they were all working together, checking some
figures. He immediately suspended operations, and
gave the impression that he was prepared to entertain
me as long as I could stop. I could not, however, take
advantage of this, and after a few brief generalities
I left him. Stella and I spent most of the day alone,
and naturally we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
We visited the picture galleries and museums, the book-
240 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
stalls on the banks of the river and the pig-fair in
Montmartre. In the evening we placed oorBelves in
As we were returning home after our fourth even-
ing's dissipation^ Stella whispered to me:
" I'm glad we're going home to-morrow, dear. Fve
had just enough."
It was not, however, till we were in the boat train
on the way to Dieppe that she said suddenly:
" Tom, I wonder whether you will forgive me ? "
"I'll make a bold try."
" You know, I think your sister's a very fascinating
person, but . . . there's something about her I don't
quite like. I don't feel that I really know her."
" She's a funny old fish. I wish you'd known her
twenty years ago."
" I'm sure she must have been ripping. Why is it ? "
"Why is what?"
"The change. She's altered, hasn't she?"
"Yes, I'm afraid she has. I don't know. It's all
very difficult and involved."
" He seems such a ripping person. So simple and
" I know. I hoped it might make all the difference.
It's difficult to know the root of causes. She married
a rotter at first, but when she was married to him she
seemed to have more hope . . . more ideals. Now
that she's married to a really decent chap she seems to
have gone to pieces."
" Perhaps it all started earlier than either."
Queer ! At that moment I suddenly remembered my
father's exclamation : " I wish I had never sent her
to that Royal Academy." Absurd! As though a
THE BABBIT 241
musical career should seriously injure one! Some
musicians have been quite nice people. There must
have come some moment . . . possibly a perverted
ambition. No, it must have started earlier than the
Royal Academy. Stella's indictment worried me. I
knew it was true, but I had never acknowledged it to
myself. Laura had always been difficult, but never
. . . quite like this.
" I have an idea," I said abruptly. " She was very
upset about our old man ... I told you, I think, he
disowned her on account of this affair with Henri.
They lived together before they were married. He
never forgave her. Laura never speaks of it."
"But, my dear, it seems so . . . unreasonable on
" It is. When you get two people like father and
Laura pulling different ways, it's like the irresistible
force meeting the immovable mass."
"I was the kind of go-between. I nearly got
squashed between them. On the whole, I think father
was the more to blame. A girl with a temperament
like Laura's can't be driven. She has to be humoured
and managed. She's partly angel and partly Bengal
tigress. She rushes to extremes. Father never had
the imagination. He never began to imderstand her.
His first mistake was "
"When he married our mother. I can see it all
now. He fell in love with her — a pretty, dark, Span-
ish thing. He never had the imagination to see that
she was different from him. She was his wife. He
bore her off like a dog with a bone. She had to con-
form to the code of Camden Town or die. Oh, God,
isn't it awful 1 Every trouble in the world is caused
by this — this lack of imagination. People go to war
242 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
becanse they can't believe that the other f ello^ has a
case. They can't put themselves in his place."
''It must have been rotten for you, Tom."
'' It has been rotten. They are both so fine in their
way — they both have sterling, fine qualities. And
perhaps the greatest tragedy is — they loved each
other. And yet when father died, he deliberately
ignored Laura in his will. He left quite a lot of
money, over twenty thousand pounds. It was all left
in trust for stepmother, and afterwards it goes to me
and Madeline. Of course, if Laura had not been well
off, I should have insisted on it going to her. • . .
" What are you thinking of, Tom ? "
'' I was thinking of that dingy little pub upsetting
the palace on the Champs Elysees ... of the far-
reaching ravages of — unimaginativeness. Of Henri,
sitting there among his bottles . . . thinking, thinking,
thinking . . ."
"Don't you think Henri might do more? Why
doesn't he try to save her? "
" Can't you see he has tried ? Can't you tell by
his eyes? The man has suffered agonies. He is like
a man preoccupied with a problem, the solution of which
he knows will come ... too late."
We established ourselves in the country, Stella, Made-
line, and I. We found a small Georgian house two
miles from Wychley Court. In addition to this we
had a tiny flat at Chelsea. Madeline had now left
school. She suddenly expressed a desire to take a
science course at Cambridge, whither two girl friends
of hers were going. I was a little doubtful at first
THE RABBIT 248
"whethei^ this desire was genuine, or whether she felt
that her place in my household had been usurped by
another. However, she seemed so keen, and she al-
ways got on so amicably with Stella, that I decided to
let her go. We all settled down to our various activi-
ties. Jevons was pleased to see me back, but he said
he could never forgive me for my effrontery in marry-
ing one of " our customers." I retorted that I had
merely done it for his benefit — to raise the status of
the firm. I advised him to do likewise, only to choose
one who was very rich. Her appearance and intelli-
gence need not be of any great consequence. Then,
to my consternation, I found that my poor old Jevons
was in great trouble. He was almost serious when he
rallied me about marrying Stella.
"All right for you, old chap. It came over me, a
sudden mood, just after you got engaged. I'm not that
sort of person, but I got thinking about things — lonely,
bored with the whole bally business. What's the good
of making money when vou've no one . . . I've never
had women fall in love with me. Not much. But she
kept looking at me, as I passed through the cretonne
department. It suddenly dawned on me one morning.
Soho Square looked quite gay. I saw her going
" Who on earth are you talking about ? "
" Miss Horlock."
" That little girl who serves the chintzes and things ? ''
"Yes. The thing suddenly got me. Mad. I be-
lieved I was in love with her. I kept her behind one
night when everyone had gone. I kissed her.'^
"The devil you did I"
" Then, of course, it was all U.P. She seemed very
sophisticated for her age. The whole thing was her
944 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
*'Wliat was tbe idea?"
'^We went away together for a week-end, to Felix-
"To — where?''
"To Felixstowe. What the devil does it matter
where it was? The whole thing was detestable. I
was hating myself like fun."
Alas, poor Jevons! No friendly odd socks to save
his soul I
" And now do you see what it all means ? "
" We mnst get rid of her gracefully and generously."
"No; it can't be done. She wants to marry me.
She means to marry me. Otherwise it will ruin the
firm. Can't you see ? "
" My dear old chap ! That's nonsense. Are you at
all in love with her ? "
" No. It was just a passing madness. But it was
two months ago. She's holding out veiled threats al-
ready. There's trouble in the oflBng. I've never done
such a thing in my life before."
" I won't have you marry a girl you don't love, and
ruin your whole life, and hers. The firm must take its
" It's decent of you, old chap. But I'm afraid I'll
I could see exactly how it had come about. I was
annoyed with Jevons, but I was certainly not the one to
throw stones. Felixstowe had all but been my undoing.
But the girl ? I sent for her the next morning. She
was a pretty, warm-coloured little thing, quite unlike
Anna. I was quite sure that she had never saved up
her lips for anyone. She looked at me obliquely and
suspiciously. I remarked casually:
" Oh, Miss Horlock, we are rearranging the soft
goods department. I'm afraid that after next week we
THE RABBIT 245
shall not be able to continue to — avail ourselves of
She stared at me defiantly. Her lips quivered. I
turned away as though the matter was at an end. Sud-
denly she blurted out :
" He^s put you up to this."
" What do you mean ? "
" He thinks he's going to get rid of me in this way.
The coward ! "
" Whom do you mean ? "
" You know quite well, sir — Mr. Jevons."
Then she began to cry. *^ I'm going to have a baby,
too. . . . His!"
My attitude of the stem director of a successful firm
all went to pieces. I said :
" Oh, no, no, don't cry ! I must speak to Mr. Jevons
about this. All right. Miss Horlock. Now run along
home and don't worry."
To Jevons I said:
" When I look at you, old chap, I am torn between
two conflicting emotions. In the first place, what is
going to happen to the country if you go on like this ?
Blast you ! Have you no sense of honour, no sense of
morality? On the other hand, who am I, to judge?
I, to whom love and good fortune have always come
like a natural birthright? On one side we have na-
ture and patriotism, on the other, humanity and pity.
I have always contended that patriotism is wrong be-
cause it has nothing to commend it except naturalness.
It is an exclusive, uncharitable, narrow-minded, short-
sighted, bigoted thing."
" All this hot-air talk is all right," interjected Jevons.
" But the point is — what are we going to dof *'
" Give me a night to think it over."
The faet was, I realised that thers was osily on«
246 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
thing to do — to tell Stella all about it I told her
all about it in the dark. It was more comfortable.
When I had finished, she said:
" How long ago was it ? "
" About two months,^'
''H'm. How disgusting! In any case, I should
think it was rather soon to be certain. Let's hope she's
made a mistake."
Oh, this modem generation! What would father
have said ?
Among other work we had on at that time was the
doing up of the house in Curzon Street belonging to the
Marquis de Thor Bohunville. Laura had given me
most precise instructions. She and the marquis were
coming to London for the season in May. I kept
Jevons very busy. Fortified by my wife's admonitions,
I said to him:
"We can't sack Miss Horlock. But we'll wait and
see what develops. If what she says is true, we shall
have to see her through her troubles. But the idea of
your marrying her is ridiculous. It isn't only you
you've got to think about. She would be bored to tears
with you in no time."
" Yes, but what about the kid ? If it grows up . . .
always the stigma."
" Look here, Jevons, I don't see why two people
should live utterly miserable lives just to satisfy a
public craving for convention. Perhaps by the time
the kid grows up the status of illegitimacy will have
been raised. Why, Leonardo da Vinci ^"
" Oh, I've heard all about Leonardo da Vinci. He
didn't live at Surbiton."
"Well, what about that estimate from Weils &
Scholtz ? Shall I ring them up, or will you ? "
THE RABBIT - 247
Jevons required a lot of bustling. Over business
matters he sometimes appeared to me to be almost un-
acrupulouSj but over this affair his conscience was jag-
ging him mercilessly. We all have our kinks of virtue.
At that time I had a letter from Madeline :
" Deas old Daddy,
" It is simply ripping here. Adela Shaw, Polly,
and I have just come in from a long run on a car be-
longing to Dr. Parsons. I am taking up physics and
moral philosophy. Joppleson, our physics master, is
a perfect dear. We call him ^Pea-nuts.' Only be-
cause he is a vegetarian, I think, and boils and drinks
hot water during a lecture. His inside is all wrong,
but he has a lovely mind. Makes everything seem big.
Do you know what I mean ? I have joined the hockey
club. I am pretty good at it, I think. Anyway, it
keeps Twy inside all right. By inverse ratio I expect
I have a nasty mind, and make everything seem teeny-
weeny. It is a jolly life, so much going on. Some of
the girls are awful cats, but most of them are ripping.
My love to you both.
Bless her! Moral philosophy! Hockey! People's
insides ! I am miles behind her. I can only just see
her over the ridge. If we could only get Madeline's
advice about this affair, she would be able to tell us all
about it. I have an idea that she could write a quite
closely-reasoned and dispassionate essay on " The
Future Status of Illegitimacy." But I can't ask her,
because she is the other side of the ridge. It is in her
hands, however, and the hands of her babies, that the
fate of Milly Horlock's baby lies.
I had the good fortune, a few days later, of relieving
248 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
Jevons of, in any case, some of his anxiety. We em-
ployed an old porter named Peel, who used to wear a
green baize apron and wheel carpets about on a trolley.
One day, as I was going through the show-room, I heard
him say to another porter :
" 'Arry, where's the Rabbit to-day? "
"Dunno. Gorn 'ome sick, I think."
I did not take any notice of this remark, but later in
the day I was told that Miss Horlock had telegraphed to
say she was too unwell to come to business. Then I
suddenly remembered old Peel's question* I b^an to
ponder. After a time I sent for him.
" Peel," I said, " whom do you mean by ' the Rab-
" Miss Horlock, sir."
" Why do you call her ' the Rabbit ' ? "
" Oh, I dunno. Everyone does, sir."
He sniggered, and wiped his hands on his apron.
" It's just a nickname, like."
"But every nickname has an origin. Pea-nuts!
No, I mean Rabbit — why Rabbit? She doesn't look
like a rabbit. I'm only asking out of curiosity."
Old Peel glanced furtively at the door.
"Well, I suppose, quite between ourselves like, sir
■ — you know, tibey say she's a bit — of course I know
nothing. It's only hearsay. But I'm told that any
feller — if you know what I mean. She's like that,
" I see. I thought there must be an origin of some
sort. Thanks, Ped. Don't let this go any further —
that I asked you, I mean."
" That's all right, sir."
I went straight to Jevons.
" Jevons," I said, " I have reason to believe that if
THE RABBIT 248
that girl has a child the credit is due, not to you, but to
some other blackguard."
" What do you mean ? "
" That she is in effect what is known as a fairy.
She got into trouble. Then she compromised you be-
cause she thought that you were better off than any of
these other seducers."
" How have you heard all this ? "
"I can't tell you, but I believe it is true. If it's
true I shouldn't think it would be very difficult to prove.
One has only got to probe about and ask a few ques-
tions. If she has conspired against us, we have a right
to conspire against her. We can even employ private
"My God! if it's true — I'll chuck her in the
street ! "
" No, no, Jevons ; don't be a fool. You're none the
less a criminal because you happen to escape. We are
all responsible. The next generation won't think any
better of us because we chuck her in the street. Who-
ever the father is, we must patch her up, and give the
kid a chance. No one has ever designed a man. We
are all accidents. Let justice be done, though the firm
of Jevons & Purbeck fall 1 "
THE IKBTBUKENT AWAXXNXD
**^ T^OU are the Marquis de Thor Bohunville ? ''
^f " Yes, monsieur."
M " You are a Knight of the Legion of Hon-
our, the holder of many diplomas in various scientific
and learned societies, both in France and elsewhere ? "
" Yes, monsieur."
The little grey-faced man looked over his spectacles
and shuffled with some papers. One felt that he was
neither very interested nor very bored; he was just
getting on with it.
" You have heard the evidence of the witness Angele
Ballonet with regard to the finding of the body ? "
" Yes, monsieur."
" And of the Doctors Qascoigne and Waterspon, who
have both affirmed that death was due to narcotic pois-
oning resulting from an overdose of heroin ? "
" Yes, monsieur."
" Will you kindly tell us precisely what transpired,
as far as you know, on the evening of the twenty-first
and on the morning of the twenty-second ? "
Henri looked down at his hands, and spoke in a low
" The twenty-first was my wife's birthday. We had
a small dinner-party at Curzon Street. Her brother,
Mr. Thomas Purbeck, and his wife were there, Mr.
Raymond, Sir Theodore Cartmill — about a dozen of
Digitized by VjOOQ IC
THE INSTRUMENT AWAKENED 251
us* Quite a merry party. Afterwards my wife and
most of the guests went on to the ball at Lady Cham-
wood's at Bede House. Sir Theodore and I stayed
behind. We talked for some time. Sir Theodore left
soon after eleven. I went to bed soon after. I arose
at seven o'clock on the morning of the twenty-second.
I was very occupied all the morning. I had an inter-
view with Mr. Fiennes of the Royal Society. I re-
turned to lunch at one o'clock. My wife had not yet
appeared. Angele informed me that she had been in
to see her an hour before, and that the Marquise was
sleeping soundly. I did not think it advisable to dis-
turb her. We had lunch and I went into my study.
At a quarter to four Angele came knocking on my door
and screaming, ^ Monsieur ! Monsieur ! Vitef Vitel
— la Marquise!'
" I hurried up to my wife's room. She was lying
perfectly still. Her face was a strange colour. Oh,
monsieur, need I "
" All right, all right ; thank you. . . . Now, I under-
stand that you and your wife were in the habit of
occupying separate rooms ? '*
" Yes, monsieur."
'' On the evening of the twenty-first you say she was
in good spirits ? " '
" Yes, monsieur."
*'Have you knowledge of any trouble or depression
that was weighing upon her ? "
" No, monsieur."
"Was she normally a woman of cheerful disposi-
" She was — variable."
" Would you describe your married life as a perfectly
happy one ? "
"I — I think — I can hardly answer that question,
252 ONE AFTER ANOTHEE
^^ Monsieur le Marquis, I presume that, being a man
immersed in scientific studies, your time was principally
occupied in that way ? "
" Yes, monsieur."
'* Was your wife interested in science ? "
^' No — not very. Not at all."
'' May I ask in what direction her interests lay t "
^^ She was musical. She had her friends. She en-
^^ At one time she was a professional musician. Isn't
" Yes, monsieur."
"I suggest from these circumstances that you led
rather — shall I say detached lives? You went your
way, and she went hers ? "
"That is — true."
" Was there any definite estrangement ? "
" No, no ; none at all. We loved each other."
"You loved each other, and yet you lived detached
"Yes; it is difficult."
" Now, Monsieur le Marquis, I must ask you — were
you aware that your wife was in the habit of taking
There was a long pause. The court-house was quite
still. Suddenly Henri buried his face in his hands and
" yes . . . yes, I knew. God forgive me 1 "
The grey-faced man scratched indifferently on a piece
of pardbment and quietly observed the witness until he
was more composed.
" How long had this been going on? "
THE INSTEUMENT AWAKENED 268
" Oh, for six — seven years, as far as I know."
" What did you do when you first discovered the
" I did my utmost to dissuade her."
" When you first married her did you suspect then
that she had acquired the habit ? "
" No, monsieur. I do not think she had. She . . .
drank champagne, sometimes more than wisely."
" You were at first, I presume, entirely devoted and
"When did this spirit of detachment first show it-
" It came gradually."
" You do not ascribe it to any special cause ? "
" From whom did your wife obtain these drugs ? "
" Latterly — I do not know. At one time there was
a man, Eene Salzmann. He supplied her. His body
was found in the Seine."
"I do not know."
" Have you made no effort to find out ? "
" Yes. I made great efforts. But what could I do ?
My wife knew hundreds of people. She was always
about. I should have had to keep by her side the whole
time, and even then — you did not know her. She
would have had her way."
" The Marquise, I understand, came of humble ori-
gin ; she was a professional musician, and she was also
the divorced wife of a London concert agent. She
was, I take it, a woman of lower mentality than your-
self. You state that even at the end you loved her
dearly. Now you, Monsieur le Marquis, are a man of
great intellectual attainments, and, I am sure, strength
of character. She loved you. The moulding of her
254 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
character was to an extent in your hands. You had
the power to control, to direct, to influence ; you "
It was then that the voice of Henri, playing on a
vibrant chord, rang through the court.
^* I could teach her everything there is to tell of life,
monsieur, except — how to live 1 "
Those were the last words he uttered in the court
He collapsed, and had to be helped away.
It may sound incomprehensible, in cold print, when
I state that on the night of my sister's funeral I went
to a concert. But so it was. Stella and her mother
and I dined alone at our flat at Chelsea. It had been
raining, and the night was humid. I had no desire for
food, and their sympathy for once failed to arouse any
response. They had not known Laura as I had known
her. Perhaps no one — not even Henri — knew her
as I had known her. Suddenly I pushed my plate away
" Will you forgive me if I go out V^ 1 said.
They both said, " Of course," and Stella came out
into the passage with me.
" The fact is," I whispered, " I must go and hear
"Yes, dear. I*m all right. You mustn't worry
about me. But I must either hear music or go mad."
" Would you like me to come with you ? "
" You'll understand me, won't you ? — but I would
rather go alone."
Stella held me a long time, and then let me go. I
hailed a cab. I was in a fever that there might not
be any music on, or that it might not be good. I drove
THE INSTKUMENT AWAKENED 255
to the Queen's Hall. To my delight I found Sir Henry
Wood's orchestra playing. I sat in a dim corner of
the gallery, with my hat over my eyes and my collar
" The charm of London is that no one knows or cares
anything about you," I thought. The hall was packed.
The same curious, solemn, detached concourse drawn
from their innumerable " business and desires," seeking
something. We none of us knew each other, none of
us cared very much ; but we all wanted something • . .
terribly. The orchestra began playing, and I looked
down. I saw the top of Sir Henry Wood's head, and
his arms waving, the sombre, business-like-looking gen-
tlemen drawing their bows, and blowing through long
pipes, and beating on drums ; the girl at the harp, the
red electric light shades . • . the people. I do not know
what they played. It did not seem to matter. I was
so eager to find what all these other people were seeking.
Something was very solemn and big: a broad theme
with a simple line, and then, fluttering round about it,
dancing like a will-o'-the-wisp, the intriguing graces of
a second theme. It was not what is known as descrip-
tive music. It was just music Just what you
and I are . . . what we want. Music analyses nothing
and explains everything. It fills up all the crevices,
as ether fills up the holes in a bar of steel. I seemed
to go right out of myself, and then to come back and
find new springs ready to be tapped. Everything re-
ceded and came into proportion.
And there, in that prosaic hall, looking down on to
the top of Sir Henry Wood's head, I seemed to find
Laura. I seemed to know and understand Laura for
the first time. Laura and her life.
Is it beauty? Is it honour? Is it happiness?
What is it we seek? The bubbles go racing through
the wine and vanish. We raise it to our lips. • • •
266 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
Through the window we see the yellow leaves of the
plane-tree drifting in the antunm breeze. Soon the
trees will be stripped and bare. Another will hold this
self -same cup^ will ask the self-same question: What
is it we seek 1 One after another, things pass away. . . .
But there is something there, and we cannot find it
The small, unhappy boy, impatient of his youth —
he wants to be a man, or perhaps an engine-driver. He
is an engine-driver. Is he satisfied? No, no; the sta-
tions and the signals flash by. The day finishes and
starts again. He peers ahead, still seeking the elusive
answer. Moments come when, blinded by beauty and
ecstasy, we think we have found it But alas! they
pass. This is not what we are looking for. These are
but pin-pricks in the vast carcase of our being. So we
go on, searching, backwards and forwards, up and
down. We listen for sounds and portents. We peer
into the eyes of our fellows. Do they know? Have
they found it? No, no; they are peering into ours
for the self-same reason. They cannot find it They,
too, are searching and waiting. The priest talks of
God, and we nod knowingly. The philosopher repeats
something he has read in a book written by a Greek
three thousand years ago, and we say : " Yes. Well ? "
The scientist dissects a beetle, and makes something go
faster or slower, and we murmur, " Wonderful, wonder-
ful ! '' The artist throws the shadows of his various
calf-loves on the screen, and we applaud him, because
for a moment he diverts us, and gives a vague hope that
he may stumble across it. Whatever it is, it must be
the most wonderful thing in the world, because it is
so intensely believed in. . . .
"We can teach them everything there is to tell of
life, except — how to live."
Laura never knew how to live. She never had a
chance. Life overwhelmed her. It was unmanageable.
THE INSTRUMENT AWAKENED 257
It was all too much and not enough. She believed in
this thing profoundly, and if she had found it she
would have been a goddess. Possibly father found it,
in his way, but he would never have been more than
just himself. If you are satisfied with that, you may
find it to-morrow. Laura was linked to the movement
of the rushing wind and the stars, to the exegesis of
these stirring chords, to the visions of Parnassus. This
life was but a tiny bit of it all to her. She wanted to
crowd it into something even smaller, taste it and throw
it away. Music frightened her. It made her see her-
self as she was — her power and her smallness; the
little bit screaming for Olympian interpretation. She
never began to understand . . . she sought vicarious
substitutes, anything which came most readily to hand.
The visions must be sustained.
The seeds of this disruption were probably in her at
her birth, the deliberate outcome of our father's ob-
stinacy. But the point of cleavage came when she was
living with Edgar Beyfus. When she began to —
prostitute her art. Erom that time on the gods mocked
her. She knew she had destroyed the spirit for the
letter. She sought the little paraphrases. The big
thing passed her by.
A woman came on to the platform to play a piano
concerto. I don't know who she was or what the con-
certo was. She played well, but she had the conscious
platform manner. A lot of little things were bothering
her. Nerves, ambition, her frock, her friends, the
Press, dread of not catching the conductor's beat. Poor
wretch 1 no good while this lasts. We are moving
again. Out and about among the rushing torrents of
rhythm which make us what we are. Music interprets
258 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
us. It is Botbing to a cow or even to a Chinaman (not
this music). It is us. The beat of our heart, the ebb
and flow of our story ... all the half-awakened
dreams, the best in us, the worst in us. Laura.
The woman is playing well. She has forgotten about
her frock and her friends and the Press and her fears.
She is with us — leading us forward. She is exultant.
Her soul is flooded. We don't exist. I have seen
Laura like that. Conscious of her mastery, and yet
flooded. The great thing pouring through her. Giv-
ing it away and yet with something of herself added.
In those days before she began to wear red carnations
in her hair. Before the accident to the Guarnerius.
Laura, you are intensely with me. All the little epi-
sodes of your life stand out clear and vivid. Do you
remember how you fought me about the spiders ? Do
you remember how you came into my room to brush
your hair? and your discovery that Evie was a white
rabbit ? Coming home from the Academy, your cheeks
flushed with the damp fog. Zuk. The awakening of
formless ambitions. I remember thinking how you
were like a musical instrument yourself, something to
be played on.
Poor old girl. It has been like that The world has
played upon you, broken the strings, and thrown you
away. Is it your fault that you were a musical instru-
ment and not a plough or a sewing-machine ? A plough
is used, a sewing-machine is worked, but a musical in-
strument is awakened. It has something of itself to
impart. A Strad has a sentient life, alert to the fingers
of a master. And yet a Strad is made as the bodies of
you and me are made, by a process over which we have
no control, and not an ounce of responsibility. These
" balanced " people ! How easy it all is I Suffering is
a science, and living is a trick. You can either do it,
or you can't. No one can teach you. You've got to
THE INSTRUMENT AWAXENED 259
practise it hard by yourself, and be always struggling
to " find out things." Even then you may fail.
Old girl, you failed brilliantly. Perhaps that is bet-
ter than succeeding meanly. You took so much away
with you. Even now you are living in all this — the
gorgeous colour of this slow movement, leading on and
on. . . . They could not rob you of that. All they can
do is to tabulate and card-index you. Oh, yes, we know
what the little grey-faced man meant. *^ A professional
musician, a divorcee^ of humble stock, took to drink,
and — h'm, yes, very distressing. My dear sir, you, an
educated man, why did you indulge in this mesalliance?
Lost your head probably, eh? But why did you not
keep her in order? Forbid her these things? Point
out to her the evil of her ways ? You mean to say you
were fool enough to make her your wife, and yet you
could not teach her how to live! Preposterous! Is
there not machinery for every eventuality of this sort ?
What is going to become of all the automata of State ?
Where is the power of property? Above all, my dear
sir, what do you suppose is going to happen to — the
country ? "
How pitiless is the wind driving through the dark
wastes where only water and marsh sustain the torpid
protozoa! Pitiless the million million years. The
slow, the almost imperceptible thrust of rocks and rep-
tiles. The barren centuries where nothing lives but
cruelty. Darkness, and water, and rushing wind, the
slow development of fighting-powers. Claws, and
talons, and raging hunger. The birth of poison, and
protective colouring. The struggle, never-ceasing, just
to live. A thousand centuries the wind has listened to
it, and nothing else. Blows in the darkness, screams of
260 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
pain, lingering death, exultant torture. Just to live.
Then from femur-like creatures arises a type that arms
itself with stones, and then with iron and bronze, the
better to kill, and mutilate, and destroy. The better
just to live. Pitiless. In the heart of nature nothing
lives but relentless cruelty.
Oh, you funny little people ! As I look down on you
on this night, standing in a compact mass in the body
of the hall, with your solemn faces, your pipes, and
your drab clothes, I suddenly realise how wonderful you
are. Your life has been so brief in the measure of this
story. You are a mushroom growth. I wonder what
the wind thinks of you ? For in all the chronicles of
nature you, and you alone, have known the element of
pity. You do not know how wonderful you are. You
are so occupied with all your little affairs, going, and
coming, and loving, and grieving. You think you're
rather clever, don't you ? You can do nearly any old
thing you like with the little earth, which you have
taken over as your property. You can link it up with
chains and ships, and read its story in the rocks. You
can twist the rivers, and bore your way through the
earth or the waters. You can make it produce just
what you want. You can make it do nearly everything,
except perhaps revolve in the opposite direction. But
that is not the remarkable thing about you. Please
realise this. You are a mushroom growth, a nouveau
arrive, and you have discovered pity. And pity is the
only thing worth discovering. It did not exist till you
If you would only always keep this in perspective —
you, John Perkins, down there, in the mackintosh and
the straw hat — there would be no need for you to get
angry with your wife because the bacon wasn't cooked
exactly as you liked it in the morning. Just think how
wonderful you are, and that it is you who are also in
THE INSTRUMENT AWAKENED 261
this big thing — the dawn of lova No, I don't mean
what you mean, Agatha and Francis, nudging each other
there in the sofa stalls. That was done in the neolithic
age. I mean love in the big sense. It has all come
so suddenly. You, Lord Clancy Pelville, leaning back
in your cushioned seat, listen to the music of this
scherzo, and realise how wonderful you are. It is out
of all proportion to be jealous of that other fellow at the
Foreign Office. That is the way wars arise.
You are all in this, and the measure of your life shall
be the measure of the way you use this gift. That is
what Henri meant when he said he could not teach you
how to live, old girl. He gave you all his love and all
his pity, and he had nothing else to giva In truth, you
did not treat him very well. I do not think you loved
£im very well, or all might have been different. But
you were not to know. Your angle of perspective had
become distorted by an earlier injustice. The people
we love are the people we want to tell things to. I do
not think you told Henri very much. You were already
consumed with those little paraphrases of the big thing.
When I hear this music I love everyone — all humanity,
the good and the vile. It explains everything. Every-
thing is filled up. My heart is beating wildly. I want
to make up for all these countless aeons of emptiness
and suffering. I want to suffer myself, so that I know.
I want to hug you closely to me, to whisper in your ear,
to hear every little thing you want to tell me. Let me
live it and make it mine. I cannot teach you how to
live. ... No one can do that. I can only live myself
because you want me. . . ~. Mary . . . Madeline . . •
Stella . . . Laura. . . •
THE SCIENCE 07 8TJFFEBING
AVE atque vale, Jtoger and Stephen. Let me
examine you and wish you God-speed. You
^ are so absurdly alike, I am not quite sure now
. . . Ah, yes, Stephen, I know you by your slightly
tilted nose, and the greater breadth of upper lip. All
right, old boy, don't wake up. 'Sh! There, there;
that's right. Nurse is out, you know — she must have
one evening a week — and Mummy has gone down the
road for five minutes. Do you know what- she said to
me ? " Just keep an eye on these little brats for half-
a-shake ! " Wasn't it rude, Koger ? We do that, you
know, we grown-ups. We take all kinds of advantage
of your lack of understanding. I heard Miunmy say
" Damn ! " this evening because you upset your bottle,
Stephen. We call you awful names. You are little
brats, too — savages. If ever anyone was neolithic!
... I want to give you some advice, though. Of
course it will bore you, but it may all come back to you
in after-life. I shall write it down so that some day
you may read it. Don't believe all the stories you hear
about me, you chaps. I know I'm a queer fish, a fusty
old crank. And in after years all these stories get
exaggerated. One becomes a myth, a type to whom
certain stories are automatically ascribed. Why I'm so
concerned to give it you is because it is not likely I
shall live to see you into manhood. I'm not that sort.
THE SCIENCE OF SUEFEEING 263
This rheumatism gives me gyp! I get so crusty and
bad-tempered. You will hear all kind of records of my
You must allow, in any case, that it is pretty credit-
able to be your father at my age. The father, of twins
at fifty! Come, now, isn't it absurd? To be sure,
the credit is more due to your mother, who is — now,
let me see ; what is it ? — half fifty, plus seven, less one.
There's a sum for you when you begin to count. She
wasn't really keen on having you, you know. And when
you arrived, you seemed — well, rather unnecessarily
redundant. But now, of course, she is as rabid as the
she-wolf with Komulus and Kemus. She finds astound-
ing virtues in you. You have established my reputa-
tion as a definitely comic figure. You cannot mention
the word "twins" without people doubling up with
laughter. It's like a red nose on a comedian, or a refer-
ence to a mother-in-law breaking her neck. Jevons was
perfectly cruel about you. It was particularly mean on
his part He must have completely forgotten that only
a few years before your coming I got him out of a
scrape. The same sort of scrape as you are, only not
half so respectable. Twins are ultra-respectable — al-
most exceeding your obligations.
Do you know what really keeps things going, boys ?
It's — grandmothers. Grandfathers, too. I have al-
ways found that women are keener on being grand-
mothers than they are on being mothers. The fathers
are almost as bad. I think they feel that when they are
grandmothers and grandfathers the picture is complete
and framed. They can sit down and read the news-
paper. All their responsibilities have ceased. They
are linked up at each end. When they die there will
be crowds of people they can impose upon both coming
How round and absurd you are, Stephen! I must
264 ONE AFTER ANOTHER
smell your skull in the same disgusting way I used to
smell your sister's. You are all inverted. Your
knuckles are holes. You have projections where you
ought to have holes^ and holes where you ought to have
projections. You are simply impossible, but the thin
down on your skull tickles my nose and makes me want
to laugh. No, no, for goodness' sake don't wake up !
It is very important that I should write down on this
tablet my message to you. We shall never really know
each other. You are beginning where I leave off. We
are miles apart
I have to try to justify myself because everybody
laughs at me. And I shall remain in your memory as
a kind of old harlequin who failed at everything until
he began to sell linoleum. Your sister laughs at me;
your mother laughs at me. Do you know what they
call me down at business? — Father William. I
heard that old ruffian Peel refer to me one day as that.
I'm certain he didn't know who Father William was.
I suppose the name suggests my atmosphere. They say
I'm untidy in my apparel, careless over details, absent-
minded, often irritable. But I notice that they always
come to me when they want favours, the dogs ! I know
they think they can always wangle things out of me
more easily than out of Jevons. Jevons has become
quite the proper managing director. He hops down in
a top-hat and tail-coat, with spats. He has married a
most respectable person — the widow of a magistrate.
They live at South Kensington, and leave their visiting-
cards, with the right number of comers turned down,
in people's halls. You know the sort of thing? You
can't get a laugh out of Jevons, except sometimes when
we are alone, and he forgets he is a managing director.
THE SCIENCE OF SUFFEKING 265
Well, what I particularly want to talk to you boys
about is — success and failure. By all the canons of
the game I have been a success ; that is to say — I have
made money. In other respects I have been a failure.
I have done nothing distinguished. I failed at every-
thing until I started with Jevons, and even now we
haven't set the Thames on fire. We have developed
into a solid, respectable firm, known to a few wealthy
customers. The success we have had has been largely
due to sheer luck — Euysdael, Lady Stourport, my mar-
riage. All my life I have, indeed, been very lucky.
Ninety-nine people out of a hundred would say I am
a lucky, successful man. I know I have failed; but
you can keep that dark. I never quite found the thing
I was looking for. It is not true that " the evil which
men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with
their bones." The use of the word " oft " is just one of
the tricks of these writing fellows to give him a loophole.
I have known somj© very pretty vices that have been
completely buried with a man, and some virtues that
have only been discovered after his death. If our poet
is referring to reputation, I can assure you that, unless
you succeed in getting several square inches in " Who's
Who," both the evil and good are buried with you. No
one is the slightest bit interested. If he is referring
to the effect of character, the evil and the good live after
a man in corresponding force. There are hospitals for
rickety children, Rhd there are — well, you. Do not
forget that. Success is not what you do, but what you
leave behind. I do not mean by this that success is
being a gramdf ather, or leaving a large family of
healthy babies, or painting a masterpiece. I mean to
say, it is what you contribute of yourself to the com-
munity. You may not marry at all, you may not have
children, but you cannot escape the influence of your
character. Every day of your life you are either help-
266 ONE AFTEE ANOTHEE
ing or harrying. Every man and woman you meet,
when you look into their eyes something definite takes
place. You either help to make or help to destroy.
The building is in progress. You may be the architect
or you may be a stonemason, but according to the spirit
in which you carry out your part of the work, so shall
you count success. And we are building, believe me.
The man who is staining the wainscot in the spare bed-
room, or nailing boards across the joists in the loft, can-
not see it He is so occupied with his little bit. He is
apt to fret and say it's a rotten building. Never mind ;
it will be all the better to have the floor^boards flush
I believe we are building; in spite of the morning's
paper which records the slaughter of countless thousands
of young boys on the outskirts of Verdun. The history
of mankind is very short. He must at times be con-
scious of his primordial ancestry. If a staircase ^ves
way, it doesn't follow that the whole building is bad. It
simply implies that there have been some indifferent
and lazy joiners at work on one part of it. It will
be up to you, boys, to see that next time the staircase is
built more solidly. And this can only be done by each
of you singing in your heart as you work. Not be-
cause you are getting an award, but because you know
you are helping the whole building.
" Lord ! " I can hear you say. " What a prosy old
bore our father must have been 1 " Well, you have
escaped all that. You might at least be patient It is
a father's prerogative to bore his sons. I have not the
faintest hope that you will heed anything I say. In-
deed, I hope you won't. You will be right beyond me.
I am only trying to impress upon you that it has taken
me all these years to discover the formula for success.
And if I could only live more intensely up to my form-
ula I believe I could find the thing we are all search-
THE SCIENCE OF SUFFEEIlirG 267
ing for. It resolves itself into the realisation of the
spirit of community. One after another we pass away,
with all our little hopes and disappointments, loves
and griefs. But the community survives. When all
these parochial differences upon the continent have been
adjusted, then will come a great chance for you boys.
You have got to learn how to live. It has never yet
No one has ever yet found out how to live. Jesus
Christ nearly did, and then He let the whole thing down
with His awards and penalties and dubious miracles.
Turning water into wine or loaves into fishes doesn't
help the case at all. Buddha thought more about dying
than living; Mahomet was too much like the hero of a
story by Robert Hichens. The most satisfactory one
of the lot was Confucius, who did indeed enunciate a
reasonably good way of living, without worrying about
the future life. But the whole conception is befogged
by ceremonial, which is a kind of "King Charles's
head " to him.
You, I know, will dispense with all prophets, and
seers, and saviours. I feel it coming. The decay of
hero-worship is the first sign. And it is a good sign.
It implies searching within rather than without; of
acting rather than of being acted upon. Sermons in
stones is a fine discovery. Everything lives ; everything
is a part of the story. I have failed because I have
sought satisfaction rather than surprises. A shock is
more valuable than a palliative. When you begin to
find yourself " settling down," then is the time to get
really angry with yourself and to hurl a brick through
your neighbour's window. Seven days in gaol would
do you no end of good. You have always got to keep
368 ONE AFTEE ANOTHER
on the move, and to remember that life itself is only a
temporary arrangement Do you know that there is a
Science of Suffering ? It astounds me that it has never
been written up. Being the inevitable corollary to
happiness, it seems odd that the professors have treated
it with such scant respect Suffering is the solution of
endless problems, but we always regard it as a thing to
be avoided or ignored. The Christian certainly uses it
as the emblem of his f aith, but he treats it as a senti-
ment rather than a science. The worst amateur of the
lot is a person called a Christian Scientist, who pro-
fesses to believe that it doesn't exist at all. The Okris-
tian Scientist is a kind of spiritual strap-hanger. He
hasn't got a seat^ but he believes that because he's hang-
ing on to a strap he's really sitting down. The whole
idea bowdlerises the essential value of Christianity.
One mi^t as well assert that it's always summertime,
or that it only rains in the night, so you needn't take out
an umbrella in the daytime.
What fun it all is, Stephen. People, I mean, and
talking through my hat, and raging up and down the
earth. I wonder whether you will enjoy it all as much
as I have ? I could go on for ever, living thousands of
completely different existences, and loving it all the
time. It's no good unless you love it You've got to
love even the people you dislike. This war! . . . My
dear boys, perhaps in your time you'll be able to focus
it Or ytmr children may be able to find out what it
was all about. For my part, I can only selfishly re-
joice that you are too young for the sacrifice. A father
who boasts that he is " proud to give his sons for his
country" is boasting of being proud of giving away
something which doesn't belong to him. I have given
yoa lifa It is yours. It is up to you to do just what
you think with it. I am your disciple, not your master.
I have no right to order you about The world belongs
THE SCIENCE OF SUFFERING 269
to you, not to ma I am all encrusted in memories, and
associations, and prejudices, which, I thank Gbd, you
need not share.
There is only one of my memories I want to hand
over to you. It concerns your sister Madeline. She
is a kind of halfway-house between us. I want to tell
you, because she is never likely to tell you herself.
There are times when the sensibleness of this new gen-
eration drives me to distraction. Madeline is like that
at times. I sometimes think she has no feeling; then
I know I'm wrong and that I'm an old fool.
One day she came to me and said :
" Daddy, do you think one could be happily married
to a man who has been roarried before ? "
" That's rather a leading question, my chilr'," I an-
swered. " You had better ask Stella."
" I hava Of course she thinks it's all right. But I
can't make up my mind. You see, he has three chil-
dren, and his first marriage was a complete success.
He loved his wife — horribly."
" My dear, who on earth is this J "
" Geoflfry Storr."
"Do you love him,?"
"I'm afraid I do."
What impressed me was the extraordinary detach-
ment of this confession. In my time we didn't behave
like that at all. There would have been heavings, and
tears, and choking sobs. And yet Madeline was quite
sincera Here was a girl in Uie early twenties, sud-
denly finding herself in love for the first time, and she
calmly considers the problem. She is weighing all the
" I suppose it depends upon — how much you love
270 ONE AFTEK ANOTHEB
'* I mippoBe it does."
She said nothing more, but went away. For monlliSy
I know, she was carefally weighing the balance of her
love for GeofFiy Storr against &e weight of obvious dis-
advantages in having three ready-made children thrust
upon her. I had nothing against Geoffry Storr. He
used to come to our house. He was a pleasant young
fellow, rather too " Oxfordy " for my taste, but a decent,
Then one day she came to me, and said :
'^ You know, I'm afraid I shall have to marry him,
I said : '' Oh, well, don't be afraid. You must surely
know your own mind ? "
'^ I love him all right. Only, of course, one must al-
ways feel — that other one. I know he'll be uncon-
sciously comparing me, and thinking what a rotter I
I ought to have been able to help Kadeline enor-
mously over this problem, but aU I could think of saying
" You'U have to chance that. I don't suppose he'll
compare you at alL It'U be all quite different. He'll
have chained, toa"
" Changed from what ? "
" From — what he was when he was married to the
" Do you mean to say he will have forgotten ? "
" No ; oh, no. But there's nothing to bind him ex-
cept memories. Memories are manageable."
Madeline gave me a quick look, as though she was
suspecting me of infidelity to her mother. It seemed
to add a further diflSculty to the problem. Again she
went away, and the affair drifted indetenninately. I
did not attempt to influence her one way or the other.
I do not know how long it might have gone on, or what
THE SCIENCE OF SUFFERING 271
might have been the upshot, if it hadn't been for the
war. GeoflFry had had some training in the Terri-
torials, and he very easily got a commission. One af-
ternoon Madeline appeared at my office in Soho. Her
eyes were very bright. She was no longer the " sen-
sible " modem girl. She said :
" Daddy, he's going to France on Sunday week."
I uttered an exclamation of sympathy.
" Do you think I ought to marry him befwe he
" My dear, I didn't know you — I didn't know that
you had made up your mind."
" Of course I shall marry him now."
"Well, well; I don't know, I'm sure. It's rather
sudden. Perhaps it would be better to wait till he re-
"But, can't you see, my dear father? — lie's not
going on a fishing expedition. Suppose . . . suppose
. . . anything should happen ? "
I realised that things might happen. Then the old
problem presented itself: Is it better to be married for
a few hours and then perhaps be a widow for life, rather
than not marry the man you love at all? God help
the thousands of women who had to spend sleepless
nights seeking the answer to this question in their
Madeline had thirty-six hours of married life.
GeofFry went. He was at the front four months and
three days before a telegram came to say that he was
dangerously wounded. I do not wish to distress you
with what followed. I can only say that your little
sister behaved in a way that nuide me very proud. W©
were given permission to go to the hospital in France
272 ONE AFTEK ANOTHER
where OeaflFry was taken, but he died before our arrivaL
fie had lost both legs above the knee, and he died under
an operation. And on that night Madeline made me
hold her very dose. And she whispered through her
" I wanted him back, daddy . . . anyhow, anyhow.
But for his own sake I'm glad he died. He always
said it was the only thing he dreaded — to come back
mangled or disfigured. And, daddy, I've got to be
sensible. I've got to go on being stupidly sensible.
You know why?"
" You mean to say ? "
" Yes. Thirty-six hours of married life. He knew.
He made me promise. If the child lives — and I've
got to want the child to live. It's beastly . . . hard
lines, isn't it, daddy ? "
And so, Roger and Stephen, next month, by the grace
of Ood, there arrives for you an uncle or an aunt one
year younger than you are yourselves! This will, of
course, be stale news for you. You will probably say:
" Oh, he's talking about old Tom or old Susan.''
And Madeline is very calm. She has that splendid,
well-poised, " sensible " expression which you only see
on the faces of modem women. Her spirituality is a
practical instrument The Greek women were just as
well-poised, but how can we tell how spiritual they were ?
Sculpture is blind. Their literature is the literature of
fatalism. They worshipped physical perfection, but a
fatalist is the last person to know how to live. Made-
line is finding out, I think. She has been through the
furnace. She will help you far more than I can.
What I have learnt from her is that to get the utter-
most out of life you have to give the uttermost to it
" To get the uttermost out of life " sounds too much like
pilfering the nest. You must not pilfer the nest, you
must add your little feather or scrap of straw.
THE SCIENCE OF SUFEEKING 273
Oh, yes, Stephen, I know. You want to wake up
and yell for something I There, there; curl your little
fingers round my thumb. Clutch it and squeeze it and
pretend it's just what you want. Sa You will never
know the man you were named after. He was rather
a character, Stephen. You could do worse than be like
him. A terrible fast bowler and, as he said, "no
Joseph." A bit of a rip in his time, no doubt. But he
was a clean man — a sportsman to the bitter end. Furi-
ous that they would not take him in the Army. He
dyed his hair — what was left of it — and swore he was
forty*-nina But they laughed at him. At last he
joined the Special Constabulary. He got his feet wet
lurking around a deserted reservoir at Walham Green,
caught pneumonia, and died in the service of his coun^
try. A good chap. And to you he will not be even a
memory. And, indeed, why should you bother about
him ? or even me ? You are twisting, and turning, and
straining at the leash already. Well, the game's afoot,
and I promise you it is a great game. It's well worth
playing. You have to come to it fresh and strong, with
all your thews and sinews taut, your muscles quivering,
your eye alert and watchful, your brain the imperious
master of the whole apparatus. Your nostrils quiver,
the air tickles your sensibilities ; you are eager for the
swift movements, the assertion of your powers, the
lightning precision of your judgment, the miracles of
chance, the joy of conflict. You are alive. . . .
Lord, what an old bore I ami
Yes, yes, it's all right . . . It's all right She's
COMING I . . . "Stella, for goodness' sake 1"
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